Pine Belt Man Arrested on Child Porn Possession Charges

June 21, 2017

Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the arrest of a Brooklyn, Mississippi man who was charged with two counts of child exploitation.

Eugene Rhodes, 58, was arrested at his home Tuesday by investigators with the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit with assistance from the Perry County Sheriff’s Office. He was booked in the Perry County Detention Center prior to his initial appearance before Judge Carl Griffin.

If convicted of both charges, Rhodes faces up to 80 years in prison and $100,000 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 Mississippi Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and it will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Brandon Ogburn.


Consumer Alert: Staying Weather Aware, Avoiding Scams This Hurricane Season

June 20, 2017

With the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season underway, Attorney General Jim Hood urges Mississippians to make provisions for possible tropical storms and hurricanes in the upcoming months.

Hurricanes and tropical storms can bring storm surges, flooding, and high winds. These storms have the ability to cause massive destruction from hundreds of miles inland, and General Hood wants to be sure residents are prepared both before and after the storm.

“We are getting the message out now so people can be ready to respond if they are in a hurricane’s path,” said General Hood. “After a storm hits, the recovery process begins immediately, and we want to make sure Mississippians know how to protect their families and their homes from also falling victim to fraud during that time.” 

Here are several ways Mississippians can be proactive in preparing for future storm threats:

  • Assemble an emergency supply kit. Supply this kit with flashlights, batteries, cash, first aid supplies, and duplicates of crucial information if evacuation becomes a reality.
  • Decide which evacuation route would be best for your family by reviewing a hurricane evacuation map, and plan how all family members and pets will evacuate safely. Contact your local emergency management agency for more information.
  • If you are not in an area that is advised to evacuate, supply your home with adequate amounts of food and water in case you lose power for several days. Also consider any special circumstances for individuals with disabilities or the elderly, and plan according to their needs.
  • Find an emergency notification system for your area. To find these alerts, search the word “alerts” on the internet with your town, city, or county name.

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division also has resources available through an online guide for those who fall victim to a storm. The guide includes tips for natural disaster recovery and how to avoid home-repair scams. It also contains a “model contract,” which will help you avoid becoming a victim of home repair fraud.

Click here to download the Consumer Tips for Storm Victims guide. 

In the aftermath of any storm, if you suspect home repair fraud or think you may be the victim of a scam, please contact the Office of the Attorney General, Consumer Protection Division at (601) 359-4230 or (800) 281-4418.

For additional tips and services on preparing for possible hurricanes, visit https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes.


Booneville Man Sentenced to 25 Years for Child Exploitation

June 20, 2017

Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the sentencing of 46-year-old Brian Michael Kemp for child exploitation and tampering with evidence.

Kemp, of Booneville, pled guilty Friday to one count of child exploitation and one count of tampering with physical evidence in an open plea before the Prentiss County Circuit Court. He was indicted in 2016 for possessing child pornography and intentionally destroying the evidence.

“Our office is dedicated to taking child predators far away from innocent children,” said General Hood. “Our cybercrime division was assisted by Prentiss County Sheriff Randy Tolar and his department in this case, and this sentencing is the result of their partnership through our Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce.”

Judge Jim Pounds sentenced Kemp to serve a term of 25 years in the custody of MDOC, with 18 years suspended and seven years to serve, followed by five years post-release supervision. Kemp, who must register as a sex offender, was also ordered to pay all court costs and $4,000 in fines. Those fines include payments to the Attorney General’s Office for investigative costs, the Mississippi Children’s Trust Fund, and the MS Crime Victim Compensation Fund.

This case was investigated by Jay Houston with the Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce. It was prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorneys General Brandon Ogburn and Mark McClinton.


Meridian Registered Nurse Arrested on Medicaid Fraud Charges

June 13, 2017

Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the arrest of a Meridian registered nurse who is accused of stealing prescription drugs intended for several of her patients.

Kristina Nechol Lewis, 31, was arrested Friday following an indictment by a Lauderdale County Grand Jury on three counts of obtaining possession of a controlled substance by fraud, misrepresentation or subterfuge.

At the time the crimes were allegedly committed, Lewis worked as an RN at the Golden Living Center in Meridian. The indictment charges Lewis with obtaining Norco containing Hydrocodon, a Schedule II controlled substance, from three patients at the center, and converting it to her own use.

Lewis was booked into the Lauderdale County Jail with a bond set at $15,000. If convicted of the three counts, Lewis faces up to 15 years in prison (five years on each count) and a total fine of $3,000. As with all cases, a charge is merely an accusation, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The case is being investigated by Trey Rogers of the Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Prosecution will be handled by Special Assistant Attorney General Tina Herron.


Hinds County Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for 2014 Jackson Murder

June 9, 2017

Attorney General Jim Hood announced today that a Clinton man has been sentenced to life in prison for the 2014 shooting death of a Hinds County man.

Hinds County Circuit Court Judge William Gowan sentenced 25-year-old Michael Sorrell to life in prison Thursday for first degree murder. Sorrell shot and killed 26-year-old LaCordne Green at the Arbor Park Apartments on Shaw Road in Jackson on August 20, 2014. Sorrell was also sentenced to a concurrent 10 years for being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was sentenced as a habitual offender because of two prior convictions for robbery and receiving stolen goods.

“I am glad to see this criminal off the streets for good,” said General Hood. “It is the duty of our office to keep Mississippians safe, and I thank Judge Gowan for his sentencing and the jury for their service hearing this case.”

Sorrell was indicted by a Hinds County Grand Jury in December 2014. The multi-count indictment charged Sorrell with first degree murder and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The indictment stated that Sorrell was previously convicted of a felony robbery in May 2014, and for receiving stolen goods in March 2011. Court testimony revealed that Green was visiting a friend at the apartments when Sorrell attempted to rob him. Green was shot in the neck during the robbery attempt, and the bullet exited his right arm.

The case was investigated by Jackson Police Department and Perry Tate of the Attorney General’s Office Public Integrity Division. It was prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Marvin Sanders.


Laurel Woman Sentenced to 20 Years for Exploiting Vulnerable Person

June 2, 2017

Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the conviction of a woman who financially exploited a vulnerable person in the amount of more than $100,000.

Lisa Byrd Mozingo, 54, of Laurel, pled guilty last week to three counts of exploitation of a vulnerable person in Jones County. While employed as a caregiver for the victim, Mozingo transferred money belonging to the victim to her own account, and, by power of attorney, bought cars and made substantial withdrawals and transfers from the victim’s accounts. She converted more than $100,000 in money, silver coins, and other purchases during the nearly two years of her employment as the victim’s caregiver.

Jones County Circuit Court Judge Dal Williamson sentenced Mozingo to 20 years in the Mississippi Department of Corrections, with 10 to serve, 10 suspended, and five post release supervision. She was also ordered to pay restitution of $100,000 and complete mandatory community service upon release.

“I thank Judge Williamson for sentencing this woman to jail and ordering nearly full restitution,” said General Hood. “Not only is what she did against the law, but it is morally wrong to take advantage of someone for whom you have been entrusted to care.”

This case was investigated by Investigator Jamie Patrick and prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Marvin Sanders.


Columbia Man Pleads Guilty to Exploiting Vulnerable Adult

June 2, 2017

Today, Attorney General Jim Hood announced the conviction of a man who financially exploited a vulnerable adult.

Thurman Kerry Lucas, 40, of Columbia, pled guilty last week to one count of exploitation of a vulnerable adult in Marion County. Lucas became the in-home caregiver of a woman in March 2014, and after helping with the finances, he started withdrawing large amounts of money for his own use, totaling $23,710.00. The victim was unable to consent to the withdrawals, which happened over a three month period.

Marion County Circuit Court Judge Prentiss Harrell sentenced Lucas to 10 years with five suspended and five to serve. He was also ordered restitution in the amount of $12,000, which was determined by the judge.

“We have a moral obligation and responsibility to protect those who cannot protect themselves,” said General Hood. “I encourage family members and friends to thoroughly check the employment background and call the references of anyone hired to provide caregiving services to a vulnerable person. If you suspect that a neighbor, friend or loved one is being preyed upon by a caregiver or service provider, call my office.”

Lucas was indicted in February 2015, and the Columbia Police Department assisted with the investigation.

This case was investigated by Investigator Shannon Spence and prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Marvin Sanders.


Attorney General Announces Operation Broken Heart Ahead of Vote to Fund Cyber Crime Division

May 31, 2017

Attorney General Jim Hood announced Operation Broken Heart Mississippi, which has already lead to the execution of 15 search warrants and 11 arrests in the past two months and announced sending an alert to all in law enforcement and victims groups asking them to contact their legislative friends to replace $4 million to fund the Cyber Crime and Victims Compensation efforts.

Since taking office in 2004, General Hood’s Cyber Crime Division has tested more than 7,000 devices for digital evidence leading to hundreds of convictions, many for child exploitation. His office is home to one of the country’s leading Cyber Crime Divisions. Their success during the years highlight the continued battle against dangerous child predators and underscores the importance of continued legislative funding for this division, as well as other vital efforts to combat crime in Mississippi.

“Protecting children from sexual predators and adults from cyber crime scams and other cyber predators is my passion,” said General Hood. “It is our mission and duty to champion those who are not able to protect themselves. Unfortunately, our efforts to aggressively investigate and prosecute these perpetrators have become entangled in the current budget mess at the Capitol.”

The Cyber Crime Division is home to the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) program, which targets online child predators. Since its inception, the Cyber Crime Division has been the model unit for developing cyber crime units in other states.  The Attorney General’s ICAC Task Force is made up of 60 local, state and federal law enforcement affiliate agencies with a purpose of enhancing efforts to identify and arrest child predators. In addition, the Cyber Crime Division and task force focus on education and outreach to the public, conducting numerous internet safety presentations and training courses in our communities throughout the year. Investigators and prosecutors staffed in the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Division provide critical training in computer forensics and investigative support to nearly 80 local district attorneys and 276 police and sheriff departments across the state. The Cyber Crime Division operates the only statewide digital forensics laboratory, which has been used to obtain and analyze thousands of electronic items related to hundreds of criminal cases statewide.

“This division is second to none among attorneys general offices across the country,” said General Hood. “We have served a role in nearly every major cyber criminal case over the last 10 years, and our digital forensics experts have testified as experts in several trials. There are people who believe the government is their enemy and think that government must be killed. Sadly, these individuals haven’t tried to learn how vital it is to have someone in the cyber unit standing on that wall 24 hours a day, seven days a week to protect us all. The work of this division cannot fall victim to our state legislature’s politically motivated budget cuts.”

Prior to the passage of Senate Bill 2362 in 2016, the Cyber Crime Division was funded by between $1 and $1.1 million per year from criminal citation fees. This was a stable funding source for the Cyber Crime Division. Although these fees are still collected, the Legislature diverted the money to a legislative fund without forwarding the fee to the Division.

Over the past two years, the budget of the Attorney General’s Office has been reduced by 28%. The general fund budget cut from FY 2017 to the FY 2018 committee report was 18.5% the largest of any state agency. The FY 2018 bill that died during the 2017 Regular Session would have been 12.6% below the Legislative Budget Office’s recommendation, which is virtually unheard of in state government. The 2018 General Fund budget of the office may be cut by 18.5% or $5,212,310 below our FY 2017 General Fund budget and a portion of this $5,212,310 General Fund cut affects the funding for the Cyber Crime Division. Previously, the office received assessments ranging between $6.5 and $7 million per year to operate the following nine programs:

Crime Victim Compensation
LEO & FF Disability Benefits
Cyber Crime
Vulnerable Persons Investigation & Prosecution
Child Support Prosecution
Domestic Violence Training
Prosecutor Training & Education
Motorcycle Officers/Law Enforcement Officers Training
Children’s Advocacy Centers

The Attorney General called on the public to call their legislative friends and ask them to replace at least $4 million in funding necessary to keep these programs going. Victims of crime and injured law enforcement and fire fighters are relying on this funding.