Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the guilty plea and sentencing of 29-year-old Leslie Burkett, of Jackson, who was charged with one count each of fraudulent use of identity and exploitation of a vulnerable adult, which are both felony charges.
Burkett, a former direct care worker at a Pearl nursing home, pleaded guilty to and was sentenced Monday on both charges in Rankin County Circuit Court. She was indicted last year for stealing several patients’ debit cards and making more than $1,000 in fraudulent transactions on those cards. Additionally, she stole a patient’s diamond ring and pawned it. The ring has an estimated value of more than $3,000.
Judge John Emfinger sentenced Burkett to two years in MDOC with one year suspended and one year to serve, followed by five years of supervised probation for both counts. The sentence will be served concurrently. She was also ordered to pay $250 to the Crime Victim Compensation Fund and $250 to the Office of the Attorney General for investigation and court costs, as well as full restitution to the victims.
“Most caregivers take good care of our elderly every day,” said General Hood. “However, this one chose to steal. I hope this one year sentence and the burden of a felony conviction will deter any caregiver contemplating taking advantage of the patients in their care.”
This case was investigated by the AG’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Myrick Jackson.
Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the arrest of 30-year-old Kyomi M. Fulton on one count of insurance fraud.
Fulton, of Fayette, attempted to defraud GEICO Insurance Company. She reported a 2000 Grand Marquis to the company as stolen and then submitted a false repair report alleging that she had put a new engine in the vehicle before it was stolen. The false car repair order she submitted totaled $3,238.89 in repairs. The indictment—handed down by a Copiah County grand jury—stated no such repairs had been made. Fulton was arrested Wednesday by Investigators Michael Stevens and Jerry Spell with the Attorney General’s Office and booked into the Copiah County Sheriff’s Office.
If convicted, Fulton faces up to three years in prison and $5,000 in fines. A charge is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
This case was investigated by Stevens with assistance from the Copiah County Sheriff’s Office and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Robert G. “Bob” Anderson.
Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the arrest of 35-year-old Francine Owens, who is charged with one count of workers’ compensation fraud.
Owens, of Jackson—who also goes by the last name of Wren—turned herself in to the Hinds County Sheriff’s Department Tuesday. She is accused of giving misleading statements to Indemnity Insurance Company of North America, claiming she was not receiving secondary income while receiving workers’ compensation benefits. While receiving those benefits, it was discovered that she had another job and did not provide that information to the insurance company.
If convicted, Owens faces up to five years in prison and $15,000 in fines. A charge is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
This case was investigated the Attorney General’s Insurance Integrity Enforcement Bureau and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Marvin Sanders.
Attorney General Jim Hood is reminding Mississippians who suffered property damage as a result of Hurricane Nate to be on alert for tree cutters who may be scammers.
“Unfortunately, we saw homeowners who were scammed by tree cutters and repairmen after Hurricane Katrina, especially those from out of state, so we are reminding people what to look out for when they are in a position of needing to rebuild or fix their home,” said General Hood. “There are plenty of honest and ethical business people out there, but the sad truth is that there is another side to it. Our team of investigators will be in coastal communities providing tips and form contracts to make sure that people do not fall victim to these acts.”
Here are some tips to protect you and your loved ones from fraudulent tree cutters, roofers, and others:
- Verify that the company you are considering is insured. Ask for a copy of the certificate of insurance.
- Do your research. Contact our Consumer Protection Division or the Better Business Bureau of Mississippi to see if they have complaints against the company. Ask for several local references and make sure to follow through on checking them. Look online at reviews of their work.
- Take time to shop around and be suspicious of any price that seems unusually high or low. Get written estimates from more than one company, and check with friends or family who’ve had tree work done recently to see what they paid and who they recommend.
- Ask how the job will be done and if they will perform the work according to industry standards. For tree removal services, pay attention to the “lingo” such as “topping a tree,” “lion’s-tailing” or “using climbing spikes to prune a tree.” Sometimes these techniques will be presented as a way to save money by removing more of the tree at one time; however, these practices can injure or kill trees, and trees pruned by one of these methods usually requires more expensive restoration work in the future in order to save it.
- Ask about post-job clean up and debris removal. Before the job is started, ask if the company will remove the tree, damaged roof, or other items from your property as well. If you don’t, it could lead to you having to also pay for debris removal.
More information on home repair fraud can be found in our online guide, “Consumer Tips for Storm Victims,” at www.agjimhood.com.
If home repair fraud is suspected, contact the AG’s Consumer Protection Division at (601) 359-4230 or (800) 281-4418. You may also email concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org
Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the sentencing of 29-year-old Phillip Bullock, who was charged with breaking into his sister-in-law’s home to beat her up.
Bullock, of Pickens, pleaded guilty Monday in Holmes County Circuit Court to one count of aggravated assault and one count of burglary of a dwelling. Judge Jannie Lewis sentenced him to 10 years on each count, with seven to serve and three suspended on each count. The sentence runs concurrent with a total of seven years to serve. Additionally, he was sentenced to three years post-release supervision.
In August 2015, Bullock broke into his sister-in-law’s home in Pickens and assaulted her by punching and kicking her while she was in bed. He proceeded to drag her down the hallway and hit her in the head with an iron.
Judge Lewis also ordered Bullock to pay $1,600 in court costs and $500 to the Mississippi Crime Victim Compensation Fund. He must also receive his GED, as well as mandatory mental evaluation and treatment.
“There is absolutely zero reason for this type of behavior, and I’m glad to see he will serve the time he deserves,” said General Hood. “I also thank Judge Lewis for recognizing the importance of requiring that this man get help so that others will not be in his path of violence.”
Bullock was arrested and investigated by the Pickens Police Department and indicted by the Holmes County District Attorney, who eventually recused herself due to a conflict of interest.
This case was also investigated by Roger Wade of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division and was prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Marvin Sanders of the AG’s Vulnerable Adults Unit.
Attorney General Jim Hood is making Mississippians aware of the preparations his office is executing ahead of Tropical Storm Nate expected to strengthen into a hurricane and make landfall Sunday morning.
Investigators with the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit visited licensed nursing homes and licensed personal care homes Friday in the most southeastern counties in the state most likely to be impacted by the storm. They checked to ensure the facilities have an evacuation plan and sufficient water, fuel, and generators. These counties include Pike, Walthall, Marion, Lamar, Forrest, Perry, Greene, Pearl River, Stone, George, Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson.
In addition, investigators have contacted the region just north of those counties to be sure they are equally prepared. That region includes Adams, Amite, Wilkinson, Franklin, Lincoln, Lawrence, Jefferson Davis, Covington, Jones, Wayne, Claiborne, Copiah, Simpson, Smith, Jasper, Clarke, and Greene Counties.
“We must care for our seniors, especially during a disaster,” said General Hood. “Our staff follows the same protocol with every storm as outlined in our office’s Emergency Response Guide, and we will do all we can to be sure that our facilities here are prepared to continue giving quality care to residents in the event of a storm and follow state regulations.”
The Mississippi Department of Health website lists all regulations for licensed facilities. If a violation is found by the public, it should be reported to local law enforcement.
Additionally, investigators with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division checked prices of emergency supplies such as water and generators, as well as gas prices across the state Friday to record pricing in the event price gouging becomes an issue.
“Increased prices do not always equal price gouging,” explained General Hood. “Consumers should be aware that a state of emergency declaration does not necessarily give law enforcement the means to enforce and investigate reports of price gouging. The governor’s State of Emergency issued Friday did not include the specific language required to “activate” the price gouging statute, however, we encourage consumers to report suspicious prices so that we will be able to monitor the situation to decide whether to recommend that the statute be triggered.”
Anyone who suspects price gouging should use their camera phone to capture the price and other evidence and immediately send it to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division by emailing email@example.com.
For consumers who have complaints or concerns, the Attorney General’s Consumer Hotline will be manned 24 hours a day starting Friday at 5 p.m. through Tuesday. The hotline number is 800-281-4418. More storm preparation information, including an emergency supply checklist and a model contract to avoid home repair fraud, is available online at www.agjimhood.com.
Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the establishment of the Mississippi Mental Health Task Force, which was created to bring many voices to the table to create recommendations for improving services for the mentally ill in the state.
The task force, which had its first meeting this week, will focus on voluntary and involuntary commitment procedures, uniform processing in the courts, crisis intervention training for law enforcement and their relationship with mental health centers, access to resources for family support, drug and alcohol abuse prevention and treatment, among other issues.
“We must make it easier on parents and loved ones to help their family member get the treatment they need,” said General Hood. “My goal is to make the commitment process easier and more uniformed, whether voluntary or involuntary. Right now, each county plays by their own rules, and we need to make sure that, whether you’re someone in DeSoto County or Hancock County, the forms, filing fees, and processes of being committed are the same across the state.”
Thirty-one organizations and offices are represented on the task force, including but not limited to mental health professionals, local and statewide elected officials, law enforcement officers, chancery judges, medical associations, and community service organizations.
“The commitment and passion of the resource professionals from the public and private sectors at our first meeting is compelling,” said 10th Chancery Court District Judge Ronald Doleac. “Working together, we can surely partner to alleviate cost concerns and bring more uniformity to our court commitment processes for evaluation, care, and treatment for our citizens with mental health and drug related issues.”
“There are a lot of hurting families who find it almost impossible to navigate the extremely complex system of mental health in our state,” said Dave Van, Executive Director of Region 8 Mental Health. “There are discrepancies across the state in how patients get to the point of receiving help, and we want to streamline that process. No one disagrees on where the state of mental health services needs to go, but having this group of people come together to find the best way to get there will be extremely beneficial to so many families across Mississippi.”
“The National Alliance on Mental Illness of Mississippi (NAMI MS) is a grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for Mississippians affected by mental illness,” said NAMI MS Executive Director Tameka Tobias. “Through education, support, and advocacy, we strive to eliminate the pervasive stigma of mental illnesses, effect positive changes in the mental health system, and increase the public and professional understanding of mental illnesses. To this end, NAMI MS advocates for policies that increase access to appropriate treatment and supports that enable children and adults to achieve their hopes and dreams. We look forward to working alongside our fellow colleagues, elected officials and community members to implement much needed change throughout Mississippi.”
The mental health task force will also review current legislation as well as needs for additional legislation. The discussions in this week’s meeting included mandating law enforcement to be trained in crisis intervention to know how to deal with a person who is mentally ill, creating outpatient commitment orders, authorizing chancery judges to issue writs for law enforcement to hold those arrested who are suffering a mental illness for 72 hours to seek evaluation rather than charging them with a crime, creating a centralized referral network of contact information for service providers, prioritizing mental health treatment within jails and detention centers and the Medicaid benefits that cover them while in jail, and developing protocols to divert persons that are experiencing a mental health crisis from the criminal justice system.
“I appreciate the invitation to be a part of this task force,” said Mississippi Department of Mental Health Director of the Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Services Melody Winston. “At DMH, we believe that increasing access to treatment, implementing evidence-based prevention strategies and providing recovery support services as related to substance use disorders should be a statewide effort. A convergence of state resources supporting these efforts is necessary to address this growing problem in our state.”
“I think that those of us who treat people with serious mental illnesses share a common belief with our friends in law enforcement,” said Mississippi State Hospital forensic psychiatrist Dr. Tom Recore. “We believe that people with such illnesses should not be housed in detention centers. They should be treated in mental health facilities. This task force is doing the important work of bringing together the mental health and criminal justice systems in our state so that we can try to figure out how to make this happen.”
“This is a great step forward in addressing the issue we currently have with people who are mentally ill ending up in our jails instead of where they need to be to get help,” said Clarke County Sheriff Todd Kemp. “Thankfully, my deputies are prepared for situations involving individuals with mental illness because of our crisis intervention training and our relationship with community mental health centers. I strongly urge all law enforcement to get on board with that training because it’s the best thing going to help stabilize mentally ill patients in the field, and that’s a goal I have for this task force.”
“I’ve been working with mental health professionals and law enforcement for 25 years as a prosecutor,” said General Hood. “This is the first meeting where I’ve seen the two come together on the same page. That is encouraging, and that’s the goal of this task force: to bring all stakeholders to the table to ensure that everyone in our state battling a mental illness or addiction will have access to the support and services they need to begin their journey to recovery. Thank you to the many members of this task force who are caring for truly the least among us—those with a mental illness.”
Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the arrest of 50-year-old Dr. Harold Peltan on 17 counts of Medicaid fraud.
Peltan, who is an ophthalmologist in Cleveland, was arrested Tuesday by the Bolivar County Sheriff’s Office on a 17-count indictment by a Bolivar County grand jury. The indictment states between July 2011 and July 2014, Dr. Peltan billed for care not provided to his patients, created false bills during post-operative periods, and billed for care that was not medically necessary.
For each count, Peltan faces up to five years in prison and up to $50,000 in fines, for a maximum of 85 years and $850,000. He is awaiting bond and court dates. A charge is merely an accusation, and a defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
This case was investigated and will be prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.