19-year-old Brookhaven Resident Going to Prison for DUI Deaths of Two Brookhaven High Students

November 24, 2015

Charles W. Acy, III, 19, of Brookhaven, has been sentenced for aggravated DUI, announced Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood today.

Acy appeared before Judge Frank Vollor today in Lincoln County and entered a guilty plea on two counts of Aggravated DUI resulting in death. Judge Vollor sentenced Acy to 25 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, 15 to serve with 10 years suspended, followed by five years to serve post-release supervision on each count. The sentences are to run consecutively with a total number of 30 years to serve.

On October 14, 2014, Acy had been seen driving erratically throughout the day in his 2003 Hummer HH2.  Later that evening, his vehicle collided head on with a Ford F150 in the 900 Block of Union Street in Brookhaven.  The F150 was occupied by 18-year-olds Jevonte Dickey and Shaquan Richardson who were on their way home from a school sporting event. Both victims were pronounced dead. At the time of impact, residents on Union Street reported seeing Mr. Acy’s vehicle swerving from side to side and increasing his speed in excess of 70 miles per hour just seconds before the crash. Acy’s toxicology reports showed he was under the influence of Marijuana and Alprazolam at the time of the crash.

“Our thoughts and prayers remain with the victims’ family,” said Attorney General Jim Hood.  “Hopefully this sentence will serve as a reminder to others, especially our youth, who decide to get behind the wheel when they are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. Mississippi has penalties for underage drinking, drug abuse and possession of controlled substances. The results of making choices similar to this defendant’s not only messes up your life, but can also bring heartache and devastation to others.”

This case was investigated by Brookhaven Police Department Commander David Johnson and Attorney General Public Integrity Investigators Ronnie Odom and Jerry Spell.

Attorney General Hood concludes, “We greatly appreciate the hard work and support of the Brookhaven Police Department and Judge Vollor’s solid sentence.”

Prosecution of the case was handled by Special Assistant Attorneys General Jim Giddy and Larry Baker.



Crystal Springs Husband and Wife Indicted for Identity Theft Medicaid Fraud

November 24, 2015

A Crystal Springs husband and wife were arrested Monday after being charged in a multi-count indictment with two counts each of felonious identity theft and two counts each of felonious Medicaid fraud, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

James Jefferson, Jr., age 55, and his wife, Pamela T. Jefferson, age 53, of Crystal Springs, Mississippi were arrested Monday morning, after being indicted by a Hinds County Grand Jury,  by investigators of the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the Copiah County Sheriff’s office.  According to the indictment, they are each charged with two counts of felonious Medicaid fraud and two counts of felonious identity theft. 

Jefferson and his wife owned and operated Garden of Angels, LLC at the time the crimes allegedly occurred.  The indictment charges the defendants with using the identity of a medical doctor and a licensed clinical social worker (LCSW) to bill Medicaid for services that neither the medical doctor, nor the LCSW provided.  Counts I and II of the indictment charge that approximately 269 false claims totaling $408,685.69 were filed against Medicaid in 2013 and 2014. 

Pamela Jefferson and James Jefferson were each booked into the Hinds County Detention Center.  If convicted they can face up to 15 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine for each of the identity theft charges, and they can face up to five years in prison and up to a $50,000 fine for each of the Medicaid fraud charges.  In addition, the statute requires that they also be assessed a treble penalty of the amount taken.  In this case the penalty could be more than $1,200,000.

The Copiah County Sheriff’s Department provided special assistance during the arrest.  The case was investigated by Investigator Barrick Fortune, RN Investigator Tina Bennett, and Analyst Richard Cameron.  The case with be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Sue Perry.



Terry Mayor Resigns Following an Open Plea of Guilty for Embezzlement

November 23, 2015

Roderick Nicholson appeared before Rankin County Circuit Court Judge William E. Chapman III today and entered an open plea of guilty to five counts of embezzlement by a public official, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Judge Chapman set Nicholson’s sentencing time and date for 9 a.m. on December 7. During the process of this plea, Nicholson resigned from his office as the Mayor of Terry. Nicholson faces a possible sentence of up to 100 years behind bars, 20 years for each count.

Nicholson was arrested March 30 by special agents from the Auditor’s Office and investigators with the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division following an indictment by a Rankin County Grand Jury on five counts of embezzlement. Nicholson used the city’s credit card to pay for repairs totaling over $2,700 on two personal vehicles. The work was done on five separate occasions at dealerships in Brandon and Flowood.

The case was jointly investigated by the Auditor’s Office and the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division. The case was prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Stanley Alexander of the Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division.


Attorney General Jim Hood Warns Mississippians of a Recent Spoofing Scam

November 20, 2015

Attorney General Jim Hood is warning Mississippians today of a phone scam that challenges even the savviest consumer.  “Scammers realize that consumers are much wiser and more likely to reject calls from unfamiliar numbers,” said Attorney General Jim Hood. “They use caller ID spoofing technology to impersonate a known or trusted phone number to trick potential victims into answering the phone.”

Here is how the scam works.  The phone rings, and we recognize the number on the Caller ID.  The caller id shows that it is a local business, a neighbor down the street, or even the consumer’s own name and number.   Because the number is known or familiar, the consumer answers the phone.

“Unfortunately, technology has evolved, and we can no longer fully trust that the number displayed is the number that is actually calling us,” said Attorney General Hood.  “Our advice has always been to answer only those calls from known numbers, but that won’t work when the caller identification has been spoofed, or is displaying incorrect information.”

Mississippi joined other states in 2010 to enact the Caller ID Anti-Spoofing Act (2010 Miss. H.B. 872) to regulate and prohibit caller ID spoofing. However, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the scammers had a first amendment right to spoof phone numbers and upheld the legality of “non-harmful spoofing” in 2012 when it overturned the state law.

The Attorney General’s Office offers the following information and tips to follow on these types of scams:

  • DO NOT answer the phone for a call that shows it is from your own number.  That is a sure sign of a scam.
  • REMEMBER THAT THE CALLER ID CAN BE MANIPULATED. Don’t completely rely on what appears on the screen. Scammers use technology that lets them display any number or organization’s name on your screen.
  • HANG UP as soon as you realize the call is a scam. Even answering simple questions in the affirmative or negative could be used to try to scam you.
  • BE SUSPICIOUS of anyone who is vague in identifying themselves on the phone.
  • NEVER WIRE OR SEND MONEY in any form to persons or organizations you do not know.
  • DON’T CALL THEM BACK.   If you receive a voice mail message, do not call the scammer back.
  • GUARD YOUR PERSONAL INFORMATION.  Do not provide bank account, credit card or Social Security numbers to anyone calling you over the phone. Giving out personal information out could cause you to become a victim of identity theft.
  • DON’T BE INTIMIDATED BY THREATS OF ARREST.  Scammers may try to intimidate you by threatening to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested. Don’t believe them.  If your physical safety is threatened in any form or fashion, be sure to report this to local authorities.

For more educational information on this and other scams, please visit the Consumer section of the Attorney General’s website www.agjimhood.com.   Anyone who suspects they have been a victim of a scam should call the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office for further assistance and guidance at 1-800-281-4418.

Rankin County Resident Going to Prison for Child Exploitation

November 19, 2015

Willard Geven Knight, 24, of Pearl, has been sentenced for possessing child pornography, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Knight appeared before Rankin County Circuit Court Judge William E. Chapman III on Wednesday and pled guilty to one count of child exploitation. Judge Chapman sentenced Knight to 40 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections with five years to serve, 35 years suspended and five years of post-release supervision. Knight must also pay $1,000 to the children’s trust fund, $1,000 to the crime victim’s compensation fund and register as a sex offender.

An investigation by the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit/Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force uncovered that Knight was downloading and sharing numerous videos of child pornography over the internet.

“Our first priority is our children and with the innovations and vigilance of our task force members to this type of deviant behavior by these predators, we are holding them accountable for their criminal activity,” said Attorney General Hood.

The case was investigated by the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit/Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Brandon Ogburn.

Jefferson County Jail Inmate Arrested for Fraudulent Prison Scam

November 18, 2015

A six-month long investigation into a prison scam led to the arrest of a Jefferson County jail inmate on charges of  false pretense, announced Attorney General Jim Hood today.

An Attorney General’s Office investigation revealed that Jerbarius Neal, 24, of Hazlehurst, Mississippi, was the mastermind behind a jailhouse scam which preyed upon families of incarcerated people.  Neal, who is serving 30 years in jail for burglary and larceny charges, is charged with offering inmates’ families a chance to secure early release for their loved ones by paying money into a fraudulent State of Mississippi program.  Neal allegedly contacted inmates’ families by using a smuggled cell phone.  He claimed to be one of several public officials, including a statewide elected official (not the Attorney General), State Representative Gregg Holloway and a federal judge.  While posing as a public official, Neal is accused of offering to provide early release, or a way to avoid prison time, in exchange for payment.  Neal allegedly arranged to have individuals meet the victim to pick up the cash or money orders.  During one of these meetings, a victim, who paid money to have his father entered into the fraudulent program, videoed Neal’s co-conspirator picking up the money. 

Tiffany McVane, age 37, of Hazlehurst, was recently arrested by the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office as a co-conspirator in this same case. McVane is accused of picking up $5,000 cash from a victim.  The victim believed the money would secure early release for an incarcerated family member.

If convicted, Neal and McVane face up to five years in prison on each count and up to a $10,000 fine per count.

Law Enforcement agents from the Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Division, the Mississippi Department of Corrections, the Hazlehurst Police Department, the Copiah County Sherriff’s Department and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office worked on the investigation that lead to the arrest of Neal and McVane.

This case is being investigated by Mississippi Attorney General’s Office Investigator Lee McDivitt and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Patrick Beasley and Shawn Yurtkuran of the Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Division.

Additional arrests are expected as the investigation continues in this case.  If anyone has been a victim of this type of scam or has information about the scam, please call the Attorney General’s Office at 1 (800) 281-4418.


EDMC to Change Practices, Forgive Loans through Agreement with Attorney General Jim Hood and State Attorneys General

November 16, 2015

For-profit education company Education Management Corporation (EDMC) will significantly reform its recruiting and enrollment practices, and forgive more than $1,229,321 in loans for approximately 1,358 Mississippi former students, through an agreement with Attorney General Hood and a group of state attorneys general.

EDMC, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, operates 110 schools in 32 states and Canada through four education systems, including Argosy University, The Art Institutes, Brown Mackie College and South University.

The agreement with attorneys general in 39 states plus the District of Columbia, through a lawsuit filed in Hinds County Chancery Clerk, First Judicial District, mandates added disclosures to students, including a new interactive online financial disclosure tool; bars misrepresentations to prospective students; prohibits enrollment in unaccredited programs; and institutes an extended period when new students can withdraw with no financial obligation.

Nationwide, the agreement requires the for-profit college company to forgive $102.8 million in outstanding loan debt held by more than 80,000 former students.

Thomas Perrelli, former U.S. Associate Attorney General, will independently monitor the company’s settlement compliance for three years and issue annual reports.

Interactive Financial Disclosure Tool

The agreement will put in place a significant interactive online financial disclosure tool required for all prospective students who utilize federal student aid or loans. The impending online system, called the Electronic Financial Impact Platform (EFIP), is currently under the final stages of development by the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and state attorneys general.

Based on a prospective student’s individual data, EFIP will produce a detailed financial report that includes the student’s projected financial commitment, living expenses and potential future earnings.

“This civil enforcement action holds EDMC accountable for what we allege were unfair and deceptive recruitment and enrollment practices,” said Attorney General Hood. “EDMC’s practices were unfair to our state’s students, and they were also unfair to our nation’s taxpayers who backed many of these federal student loans that were destined to fail,” Attorney General Hood added. “This is a rigorous agreement that not only provides some relief to a large number of former students through loan forgiveness, but helps ensure that the company will make substantial changes to its business practices for future students.”

Consumer Complaints, Multistate Investigation

After receiving numerous complaints from current and former EDMC students, state attorneys general initiated a multistate investigation in January of last year. Attorneys and investigators reviewed consumer complaints, reviewed company documents, and interviewed former EDMC employees.

“Our investigation gave us a pretty clear picture of how EDMC lured prospective students into its programs, and how many students left the program with unfulfilled promises and oftentimes tremendous debt,” said Attorney General Hood. “We think this agreement addresses our biggest concerns about the company’s business practices and puts in place new transparency and accountability.”

As part of the agreement, EDMC does not admit to the conduct alleged by attorneys general.

Agreement Highlights

Under the agreement, EDMC must:

  • Not make misrepresentations concerning accreditation, selectivity, graduation rates, placement rates, transferability of credit, financial aid, veterans’ benefits, and licensure requirements. EDMC shall not engage in deceptive or abusive recruiting practices and shall record online chats and telephone calls with prospective students.
  • Provide a single-page disclosure to each prospective student that includes the student’s anticipated total cost, median debt for those who complete the program, the default rate for those enrolled in the same program, warning about the unlikelihood that credits from some EDMC schools will transfer to other institutions, the median earnings for those who complete the program, and the job placement rate.
  • Require every prospective student utilizing federal student loans or financial aid to submit information to the interactive Electronic Financial Impact Platform (EFIP) in order to obtain a personalized picture of the student’s projected education program costs, estimated debt burden and expected post-graduate income.
  • Reform its job placement rate calculations and disclosures to provide more accurate information about students’ likelihood of obtaining sustainable employment in their chosen career.
  • Not enroll students in programs that do not lead to state licensure when required for employment or that, due to lack of accreditation, will not prepare graduates for jobs in their field.
  • Require incoming undergraduate students with fewer than 24 credits to complete an orientation program prior to their first class.
  • Permit incoming undergraduate students at ground campuses to withdraw within seven days of the beginning of the term or first day of class (whichever is later) without incurring any cost.
  • Permit incoming undergraduate students in online programs with fewer than 24 online credits to withdraw within 21 days of the beginning of the term without incurring any cost.
  • Require that its lead vendors, which are companies that place website or pop-up ads urging consumers to consider new educational or career opportunities, agree to certain compliance standards. Lead vendors shall be prohibited from making misrepresentations about federal financing, including describing loans as grants or “free money;” sharing student information without their consent; or implying that educational opportunities are, in fact, employment opportunities.

Relief Eligibility

Those who will receive automatic relief related to outstanding EDMC institutional loans must have been enrolled in an EDMC program with fewer than 24 transfer credits; withdrew within 45 days of the first day of their first term; and their final day of attendance must have been between January 1, 2006 and December 31, 2014.

The agreement is expected to provide an average of $1,370 per person in loan forgiveness.

Separate Resolution of Federal False Claims Lawsuit

Today, EDMC also agrees to pay a $95 million settlement of a separate federal whistleblower lawsuit under the False Claims Act. In that case, brought by the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of the Department of Education, the government alleged that EDMC illegally paid incentive-based compensation to its admissions recruiters tied to the number of students they recruit.

Rolling Fork Man Indicted on Four Felonious Fraud Charges

November 13, 2015

Eldridge Walker, of Rolling Fork, is facing felony charges following a four count indictment by a Hinds County Grand Jury, confirmed Attorney General Jim Hood.

Walker was recently arrested by investigators with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. Walker is charged with false pretense, conspiracy to commit false pretense, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Walker is alleged in the indictment to have, while doing businesses as Walker Construction, submitted a false invoice concerning alleged work at the home of a Rolling Fork resident “with intent to defraud Federal Home Loan Bank.”  

Walker was booked into the Hinds County jail. If convicted of all charges, the defendant faces up to 20 years behind bars.  As with all cases, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

This case is being investigated by Investigator Bo Luckey and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Patrick Beasley of the Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Division.