Hattiesburg Woman Arrested for Insurance Fraud

May 24, 2019

A 56-year-old Hattiesburg woman turned herself in Friday morning on a one-count indictment for insurance fraud, Attorney General Jim Hood announced.

Enotris Jordan was indicted by a Forrest County grand jury for filing a false insurance claim under a deceased man’s name. The benefits were sent to Jordan, and she converted them for her own use, according to the indictment. She was booked into the Forrest County Detention Center.

If convicted, Jordan 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 AG Investigator Justin Harris and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Marvin Sanders, both with the AG’s Public Integrity Division.


Two Arrested for Possessing Child Pornography

May 24, 2019

Two men were arrested this week in separate cases after investigators discovered suspicious online activity, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

William Dale Scrimpshire, 65, of Pachuta, and William Andrew Chapman, 36, of Columbia, were arrested at their homes and charged with two counts of child exploitation for possession of child pornography. If convicted, they both face up to 80 years in prison.

Scrimpshire was arrested Wednesday and booked into the Clarke County Detention Center. Chapman was arrested Thursday and booked into the Marion County Adult Correctional Facility.

A charge is merely an accusation, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

These cases were investigated by the Mississippi Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force with assistance from the Clarke County Sheriff’s Department, Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, Columbia Police Department, and the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. They will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Brandon Ogburn. 


AG Calls for Automatic Discharges of Student Loans for Disabled Veterans

May 24, 2019

Attorney General Jim Hood joined a group of 51 attorneys general in urging the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) to automatically forgive the student loans of veterans who became totally and permanently disabled in connection with their military service.

Last year, DOE identified more than 42,000 veterans as eligible for student loan relief due to a service-related total and permanent disability. However, fewer than 9,000 of those veterans had applied to have their loans discharged by April 2018, and more than 25,000 had student loans in default. Under federal law, DOE is required to discharge the federal student loans of veterans determined by the Department of Veterans Affairs to be unemployable (or totally and permanently disabled) due to a service-connected condition. Although DOE currently requires disabled veterans to take affirmative steps to apply for a loan discharge, those steps are not required by law.

Therefore, the letter calls on DOE to develop a process to automatically discharge the student loans of veterans determined by the Department of Veterans Affairs to be eligible for such relief. The attorneys general suggest that while the automatic discharge process is in development, DOE should halt debt collection efforts targeting disabled veterans and clear their credit reports of any negative reporting related to their student loans. 

“As attorney general, I have a responsibility to make sure our veterans, as consumers, are treated fairly on matters such as student loan payments. There should be no pause in deciding whether to help our veterans in this way,” General Hood said. “These honored citizens have had their lives completely changed as a result of their sacrifice and duty to our nation, and it is only right that we relieve them of this additional burden.”

The attorneys general note that the federal government has taken some steps to make it easier for eligible veterans to secure student loan relief. According to their letter, however, an automatic discharge process that gives individual veterans an opportunity to opt out for personal reasons “would eliminate unnecessary paperwork burdens and ensure that all eligible disabled veterans can receive a discharge.”

“Proposals for automatic discharges with opt-out rights have bipartisan support in Congress and among leading veterans’ advocacy organizations,” the letter states. The veterans groups supporting such proposals have included: Vietnam Veterans for America, Veterans Education Success, The Retired Enlisted Association, High Ground Advocacy, and Ivy League Veterans Council.

 


AG Jim Hood Asks Congress to Hold Internet Service Providers Accountable, Ensure States Maintain Right to Stop Criminal Violations of State Law

May 23, 2019

Attorney General Jim Hood led 46 AGs across the country this week to ask Congress, again, to amend the Communications Decency Act in order to make sure state and local authorities are able to protect our citizens online and take appropriate action against criminal actors.

The Communication Decency Act of 1996 (CDA) was designed to encourage the growth of the internet by promoting free expression, particularly on online message boards. The Act was intended to allow companies who sponsor message boards to remain immune to repercussions from inappropriate posts, but, due to a misinterpretation of Section 230 of the Act, some federal court opinions have interpreted it so broadly that individuals and services, which knowingly aid and profit from illegal activity, have evaded prosecution.

“Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act” and “Allow States and Victims to Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act” (known as FOSTA-SESTA) was signed into law in 2018, making clear that the CDA’s immunity does not apply to enforcement of federal or state sex trafficking laws. Unfortunately, the abuse on these platforms does not stop at sex trafficking, but includes all sorts of harmful illegal activity such as online black market opioid sales, identity theft, and election meddling.

Section 230 expressly exempts prosecution of federal crimes from the safe harbor, but “addressing criminal activity cannot be relegated to federal enforcement alone simply because the activity occurs online,” the letter states. “Attorneys General must be allowed to address these crimes themselves and fulfill our primary mandate to protect our citizens and enforce their rights.”

This is not the first time attorneys general have addressed this issue with Congress. In 2013 and 2017, nearly every state and territory AG wrote to inform Congress of the damaging misinterpretation and misapplication of Section 230 of the CDA.

“The internet is a great resource for many things; unfortunately, it’s also a very dangerous place where predators can easily hide,” General Hood said. “Our investigators work hard to track down child pornographers and criminals taking your identity. Now, we need Congress to make it abundantly clear that these providers are accountable for allowing illegal activity on their platforms. No amount of money or power should allow Big Tech to be immune from prosecution for turning a blind eye or facilitating egregious harms to our communities, and state and local law enforcement should be empowered by Congress and our courts to enforce state criminal laws on the internet just as we do on the streets.”

In addition to Mississippi, the following states joined the letter: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.


AG Hood Asks Corps of Engineers for More Information on Flood Management

May 22, 2019

Letter warns of deadly environmental impact, seeks information on pumps

Attorney General Jim Hood sent the attached letter Tuesday to the Major General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, stating his concerns regarding both the river flooding in the Mississippi Delta and the environmental impact of the Corps’ recent decision to re-open the Bonnet Carré Spillway.

The letter requests a meeting with General Kaiser and staff as soon as possible to better understand the situation and the Corps’ plans to protect Mississippians and our state’s natural resources in both the Coastal and Delta regions.

The letter also requested that the attorney general be included in all future stakeholder meetings regarding the opening of the BCS and Mississippi flood management.

“I reached out to the Corps of Engineers to better understand flood management and make sure the best approaches are implemented in protecting our communities from flooding and limiting serious environmental impacts,” General Hood said. “The opening of the Bonnett Carre’ Spillway on the Mississippi River by the Corps of Engineers has allowed freshwater and pollutants to flow through Lake Pontchartrain into the Mississippi Sound, killing dolphins and sea turtles and adversely impacting the seafood industry. Mississippi has one of the largest dolphin populations in the United States, and we have had increased dolphin deaths due to the freshwater displacing the salt content of the Sound. There have been 80 dolphin and 125 sea turtle deaths this year, and the month of April saw the highest number of these deaths in the past six years. I understand that the Corps is concerned about potential flooding in the New Orleans area. Meanwhile, our Delta farmers may not be able to plant a crop this summer, which will be devastating to Delta communities on top of extensive damage to homes. I want to make sure that the Corps is considering all of its options in flood management. Moreover, I want the federal government to know that the state of Mississippi intends to have it losses compensated or mitigated.”


Woman Indicted for Stealing Money from Vulnerable Person

May 21, 2019

A Moss Point woman faces 10 years in prison for allegedly stealing nearly $13,000 from a woman who is not able to care for herself, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Robin Lister Clay, 56, turned herself in to authorities Monday following an indictment by a Harrison County grand jury on one count of felony exploitation of a vulnerable person. The indictment states, as power of attorney, she stole $12,889.40 from the victim and used it for her own advantage without the victim’s consent. This happened over a 22-month period.

Clay was booked into the Harrison County Adult Detention Center. If convicted, she faces up to 10 years in prison and $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 Anita Ray and will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Marvin Sanders, both with the AG’s Vulnerable Persons Unit.

 


Natchez Man Gets 30 Years for 2016 Shooting

May 21, 2019

Clarence Matthews, of Natchez, will spend 30 years in prison after entering an open plea of guilty Tuesday to one count each of aggravated assault and felon in possession of a firearm following a January 2016 shooting.

Clarence Matthews, of Natchez, will spend 30 years in prison after entering an open plea of guilty Tuesday to one count each of aggravated assault and felon in possession of a firearm following a January 2016 shooting, Attorney General Jim Hood announced.

Matthews, 70, shot Alonzo Hoye in the face at a Natchez bar on January 15, 2016. Adams County Circuit Court Judge Lillie Blackmon Sanders sentenced Matthews to 20 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections for aggravated assault and 10 years for being a felon in possession of a firearm. The sentences will run consecutively for a total of 30 years to serve.

“Thank you to Judge Sanders for getting this dangerous man out of the community,” General Hood said. “I appreciate the work done on this case by our office and the Natchez Police Department leading up to his sentencing today.”

This case was investigated by the Natchez Police Department with assistance from AG Public Integrity Investigator Kenneth West. Prosecution was handled by Assistant Attorney General Stan Alexander and Special Assistant Attorney General Dana Sims. The AG’s office received this case upon recusal of the Adams County District Attorney due to conflict of interest.


Pearl Man Arrested for Possessing Child Pornography

May 20, 2019

A 29-year-old man was arrested Thursday and charged with one count of child exploitation, announced Attorney General Jim Hood.

Stephen Vail Schubring, of Pearl, was arrested at his home after an investigation into his suspicious online activity. He was booked into the Rankin County jail and charged with one count of child exploitation for possession of child pornography.

If convicted, Schubring faces up to 40 years in prison. 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 with assistance from the Pearl Police Department, which is an ICAC affiliate. It will be prosecuted by Special Assistant Attorney General Brandon Ogburn.