AG Sends $32 Million to the Legislature, Urges Mississippians to Tell Legislature: #LeaveOurAGAlone

February 21, 2018

Attorney General Jim Hood announced the fourth settlement of the civil suits in the MDOC-Christopher Epps prison bribery scandal and deposited $32.1 million into the state’s general fund Tuesday, in the midst of the Legislature attempting to strip his Constitutional authority to go after corporate wrongdoers. General Hood is calling on Mississippians to contact their lawmakers and say, “Leave our AG alone!”

A portion of the check includes another settlement in the Epps case for $750,000 from CGL Facility Management, LLC, which is a company that provides facility management, project management, and corrective and preventative maintenance services to correctional facilities. The CGL settlement is the fourth of 11 civil actions to be settled in the Epps bribery scandal, and Tuesday’s deposit included $3.9 million from those cases.

The largest portion of the check delivered Tuesday is $25.3 million from a recently announced settlement with Watson Pharmaceutical, which sold overpriced drugs to the state’s Medicaid program, costing taxpayers $7 million.

The money sent to the general fund covers 21 cases settled by the attorney general with the majority of those cases involving violations under the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act (MCPA). That act is what protects Mississippians from being taken advantage of by corporations who have lied to customers, inflated their prices, and allowed safety measures to go unenforced, among other things. A number of bills currently pending in the state Legislature would remove the power of the attorney general to take these wrongdoers to court, thus resulting in not only losing billions of dollars to the state but, more importantly, fewer protections for Mississippians.

“This isn’t kids’ games, and should not be dismissed as just partisan politics,” said General Hood. “This is a billion dollars of the people’s money.  The legislators driving these bills are attempting to give taxpayer money to corporations.  We don’t want to believe it, but you can see corporations writing our laws. This should shock the conscience of republicans and democrats alike. With a billion dollars on the line, no reasonable prosecutor would dismiss the possibility of bribes, kickbacks, and campaign contributions being offered.”

House Bills 1238 and 1177 and Senate Bill 2295 each attack the attorney general’s authority by attempting to weaken or remove the office’s prosecutorial authority, in various ways, by uprooting his ability to fight for Mississippians under the MCPA and without getting prior approval from other agencies. The following is a short description of what each bill would do and non-exhaustive examples of how previously settled or pending litigation would be affected if these laws were in place:

  • HB 1238
    • Allows entities regulated by state and federal agencies to claim they do not have to abide by the MCPA due to outside regulations
      • Litigation affected: opioid manufacturers, which are being investigated for allegedly misrepresenting drug benefits; pharmaceutical companies who overprice drugs (Watson); Volkswagen, for selling vehicles that circumvent federal and state emission standards; Equifax, Experian, and Transunion, which was an investigation into credit reporting agencies regarding misrepresentation of credit monitoring services, credit reports, and credit scores that lead to a settlement
    • SB 2295
      • Requires approval by the Public Service Commission for the AG to bring suit against utility companies
        • Litigation affected: pending Entergy case, where the utility company faces a $1.1 billion lawsuit for overcharging its customers by not purchasing the cheapest power to sell to consumers
      • HB 1177
        • Allows state agencies and private citizens to file suit and collect damages owed to the state
          • Litigation affected: Watson Pharmaceutical; if bill becomes law, Division of Medicaid—not the AG—would investigate and file suit

Many state agencies do not generally have resources needed to investigate and prosecute and could use different theories, that’s why the AG is tasked with representing the state

“If people are going to take action about something happening at the capitol, now is the time,” said General Hood. “These bills directly impact every Mississippian, and if they are signed into law, it would be devastating to everyone, including the people who are pushing this legislation. I was elected, just as other attorneys general before and after me, to protect you. I’m urging everyone to call their legislator to tell them to leave the AG’s office alone so that we can do our job protecting Mississippians as we have done long before I took office, and long after I leave.”

The number to the Capitol Switchboard is 601-359-3770, and constituents who wish to share the message on social media are asked to use #LeaveOurAGAlone


Gulfport Woman Arrested on Child Pornography Charge

February 14, 2018

Anika Moore, 21, of Gulfport, was arrested Tuesday on one count of child exploitation for possession of child pornography following an investigation into her suspicious online activity.

A 21-year-old woman from Gulfport was arrested Tuesday on one count of child exploitation for possession of child pornography, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Anika Moore was arrested at the Gulfport Police Department following an investigation into her suspicious online activity. If convicted, she faces up to 40 years in prison and between $50,000 and $500,000 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 the AG’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force with assistance from the Gulfport Police Department. It will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Brandon Ogburn.


AG Urges Congress to Protect Employees from Sexual Harassment

February 12, 2018

Attorney General Jim Hood joined a bipartisan coalition of 56 states and territories today urging Congress to end secret, forced arbitration in cases of workplace sexual harassment.

“All victims have a right to their day in court, and victims of sexual harassment should be no different. Too often employees are required to sign employment contracts containing arbitration agreements mandating that sexual harassment claims be resolved through private arbitration instead of the judicial process,” said General Hood. “The secrecy surrounding these proceedings can protect serial violators and provide inadequate relief to victims.”

As Congress considers legislation regarding sexual harassment, the letter sent by the attorneys general to Congressional leaders asks that they pass appropriately-tailored legislation to ensure that sexual harassment victims are not forced into arbitration.

“Congress today has both opportunity and cause to champion the rights of victims of sexual harassment in the workplace by enacting legislation to free them from the injustice of forced arbitration and secrecy when it comes to seeking redress from egregious misconduct condemned by all concerned Americans,” the letter states.

Click here for a copy of the letter.


Woman Headed to Prison for 5 Years After Forging Checks

February 12, 2018

Ludie Mae Hicks will spend five years in prison for forging checks using the account number of a Greenville nursing home, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Hicks, 43, of Hollandale, was sentenced last week by Washington County Circuit Court Judge W. Ashley Hines. She pleaded guilty to one count of uttering forgery, and in addition to the prison time, she was ordered to pay $1,425 in fines and fees.

Hicks used the checks she forged to spend more than $1,000 at the Greenville Walmart. Though the checks were fraudulent, the account number listed was affiliated with the Mississippi Care Center of Greenville, which caused the money to be taken from the center’s bank account. She was arrested in June by investigators with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division and Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.

“Our nursing homes are responsible for the well-being of our most vulnerable citizens. Stealing from a care center is tantamount to stealing from a patient,” said General Hood. “We appreciate Judge Hines’ sentence, and hopefully it will deter others from taking advantage or stealing from the care of our elders.”

This case was investigated by Miller Faulk and prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Patrick Beasley with the AG’s Consumer Protection Division.


Father Ordered to Pay Back More Than $38,000 in Child Support

February 7, 2018

Joseph Lane Harrill, 45, of Olive Branch, was ordered by a judge Tuesday to pay more than $38,000 for failing to support his child for 12 years.

Joseph Lane Harrill- a father in DeSoto County- was ordered by a judge Tuesday to pay more than $38,000 for failing to support his child for 12 years, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Harrill, 45, of Olive Branch, pleaded guilty before DeSoto County Circuit Judge Jimmy McClure to one count of non-support of a child. Judge McClure sentenced Harrill to serve five years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections with five of those years suspended followed by five years on supervised probation. Harrill was also ordered to pay $38,448.36 over the course of his probation in addition to $100 to the Attorney General’s Office and $100 to the Mississippi Crime Victim Compensation Fund.

Harrill was arrested May 16, 2017, while employed by a construction company. Prior to his arrest, Harrill paid child support off and on from 2005-2011. In 2011, payments became more irregular, and eventually ceased until March 2017.

“It’s a shame this man knowingly and willingly abandoned his responsibility to his own child. It took him being arrested and convicted before picking back up his monetary commitment to his child,” said General Hood. “We thank Judge McClure for forcing this parent to take responsibility and hope this serves as a reminder to other deadbeat parents that they, too, will eventually have to pay what they owe.”

This case was investigated by the Attorney General’s Child Desertion Unit and prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Kimberly T. Purdie.


Woman Faces 20 Years in Prison for Pirating Test Prep Materials

February 6, 2018

Brandy Dunn, 33, of Saraland, Alabama, faces up to 20 years in prison for allegedly reselling online test preparation materials created for nursing students.

An Alabama woman faces up to 20 years in prison for allegedly reselling test preparation videos and documents, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Brandy Dunn, 33, of Saraland, Alabama, surrendered to the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office on January 29 on an outstanding warrant. She is charged with one count of offense against intellectual property. She was indicted by a Lincoln County grand jury for allegedly reselling online test preparation materials created for nursing students by Hurst Review Services, which is located in Brookhaven.

If convicted, Dunn could spend up to 20 years in jail and pay up to $10,000 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 the AG’s Cyber Crime Unit and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Brandon Ogburn.


Deadline Approaching to File Claims in Western Union Scam

February 5, 2018

The deadline for filing claims for money lost in a Western Union scam is May 31, 2018.

The deadline for filing claims for money lost in a Western Union scam is May 31, 2018.

Mississippians may be eligible to receive compensation if they were a victim of a fraud-induced transfer using Western Union between January 1, 2004, and January 19, 2017. A typical fraud transfer in this case would include a scammer getting their victims to wire them money by making the victim believe it was for a lottery, family emergency, online dating, and other tactics.

Compensation for victims of fraud will come from a $586 million fund administered by the Department of Justice’s Victim Asset Recovery Program. This fund is related to a multi-state settlement with Attorney General Jim Hood and 49 other states, the District of Columbia, and Western Union.

All complaints that were filed with the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office covering the relevant time period were sent to Western Union after the settlement was announced. Those individuals and any Mississippians who reported to Western Union or another government agency that they had been the victim of a scam using Western Union will be sent a claim form in the mail. The claim form will be sent from the settlement administrator, Gilardi & Co. The form will contain instructions explaining how consumers may file their claim to receive compensation.

However, if you did not previously file a complaint, you may still be eligible to submit a claim directly to Western Union. If you believe you may have an eligible claim, please visit http://www.westernunionremission.com or call 1-844-319-2124 for more information on how to file a claim.

Filing a claim is free, so consumers should not pay anyone to file a claim on their behalf. No one associated with the claims process will ever call to ask for consumers’ bank account or credit card number.

“For years, Western Union allowed scammers to use its money transfer system to get payments from victims, even though they received hundreds of thousands of complaints about money transfers that were induced by fraud and deceit,” said General Hood. “Because they chose to ignore the problem instead of implementing policies and procedures to better protect consumers, they are now having to reimburse consumers for these loses.”

All completed claims forms must be mailed back to the settlement administrator by May 31, 2018. The Attorney General’s Office encourages Mississippians to reach out to our Consumer Protection Division if they have questions or concerns at 1-800-281-4418 or aginfo@ago.state.ms.us.


Kemper County Man Arrested on Charges of Rape and Incest

February 2, 2018

Andrew McGraw, 53, from Kemper County, faces life in prison after he was arrested and formally charged on one count of rape and one count of incest following allegations of raping a relative who is a vulnerable adult.

A man from Kemper County is facing life in prison after being arrested Thursday on allegations of raping a relative who is a vulnerable adult, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Andrew McGraw, 53, was booked into the Kemper County jail after being arrested by the Kemper County Sheriff’s Office, who was assisted by investigators with the Attorney General’s Office. McGraw had his initial appearance Friday before Kemper County Justice Court Judge Mary Gully, where he was formally charged on one count of rape and one count of incest and received a $100,000 bond on each charge.

If convicted, McGraw faces up to 10 years in prison on the incest charge and life on the rape charge. 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 Michael Mattox of the Kemper County Sheriff’s Office, along with Investigators Crystal Tillman and Tonya Mangus of the AG’s Public Integrity Division. It will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Kimberly Purdie with the AG’s Public Integrity Division.