Connect with us

Crime

Former exec. director of the Mississippi Department of Education charged in bid-rigging scheme

Published

on

A former executive director of the Mississippi Department of Education is among four people charged in a federal bid-rigging scheme involving kickbacks and money laundering.

The federal indictment charged former MDE director Cerissa Renfroe Neal, 45, of Madison County, David B. Hunt, 54, of Jackson, Tennessee, Joseph Kyles, 51, of Memphis, Tennessee, and Lambert Martin, 59, of Memphis, Tennessee, with conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and bribery. The indictment was announced by U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst Thursday, along with Special Agent in Charge Michelle A. Sutphin with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Mississippi, Special Agent in Charge Neil E. Sanchez with the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Inspector General, and Mississippi State Auditor Shad White.

The indictment, returned by a federal grand jury Feb. 25, 2020, and recently unsealed by a federal court, charges Neal and her co-defendants with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and seven counts of wire fraud. The indictment also charges Neal and Kyles with one count of money laundering. Finally, Neal and Kyles are each also charged with three counts of bribery.

“Those who defraud the public’s trust will find themselves standing before a court of law to answer for their wrongs,” said U.S. Attorney Hurst. “Public corruption erodes faith in our democracy and decays the very soul of our form of government. Bringing to justice corrupt public officials has always been and remains a high priority of this office, and a personal mission of mine, and we will continue to pursue corruption wherever it may lead.”

According to the indictment, Neal was the executive director of MDE during 2013 to 2016, when she conspired with the three named defendants and other conspirators to defraud the State of Mississippi and the United States by bid-rigging, false quotes and altered purchase orders to make money and profit by defrauding the MDE into awarding contracts and purchase orders at inflated prices, directed to conspirators and their businesses.

The indictment alleges that Neal would split contract requests from one contract into multiple, smaller contracts, to avoid threshold amounts that would trigger a formal, competitive bidding process. Neal would entertain and advocate for a bid for the contract from one of the three conspirators’ businesses, including The Kyles Company in Memphis, Tennessee (Joseph Kyles), Doc Imaging (also d/b/a as “Hunt Services”) in Jackson, Tennessee (David Hunt), and Educational Awareness in Memphis, Tennessee (Lambert Martin).

To meet the MDE requirement that such an informal bid have at least two competing vendor quotes for comparison, Neal would obtain false and inflated quotes, by herself and from the other conspirators, designed to make the intended conspirator’s business lower the bid, and to guarantee the award of the contract.

The indictment alleges that conspirators coordinated their submissions to MDE as well as the sharing of the resulting contract payments. After the department made payment on the rigged contract to the conspirator-owned business, the winning bidder shared some of the money with conspirators, in return for their assistance in rigging the bid and winning the MDE contract. In this manner, Neal received more than $42,000 directly or indirectly from her conspirators. Kyles, Hunt and Martin, through their respective businesses, garnered over $650,000 from the State of Mississippi, including federal funds granted by the U.S. Department of Education to Mississippi.

“I applaud the investigative work in this case and that of our federal partners,” said auditor White. “In 2017, the auditor’s office provided information about these defendants to federal authorities, so I’m grateful for the work of those investigators and former auditor Pickering as well.”

Hunt, Kyles and Martin will appear for arraignment Sept. 10, 2020, before United States Magistrate Judge F. Keith Ball in Jackson at 2:30 p.m. Neal appeared in court for her arraignment Aug. 19 and was released on conditions of bond pending trial.

If convicted, each defendant faces maximum penalties of 20 years in prison for each count charged for conspiracy and wire fraud, and 10 years in prison for each count of money laundering and bribery. Each count also can merit a fine of up to $250,000.

The case has been assigned to Senior U.S. District Judge Tom S. Lee for trial.

U.S. Attorney Hurst commended the work of the Special Agents of the FBI’s Jackson Division and the Office of the Inspector General, United States Department of Education, as well as the Mississippi State Auditor’s Office and the Mississippi State Attorney General’s Office, who investigated the case. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Theodore Cooperstein.

The public is reminded that an indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. Every defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

 

Crime

Father arrested for taking newborn from hospital

Published

on

Travis Hargrove (photo courtesy LSP)

Police have arrested the father of the newborn taken from a Monroe, Louisiana, hospital last week.

Travis Hargrove, 35, has been charged with cruelty to a juvenile for taking his newborn son, Travis Hargrove Jr., from the St. Francis Medical Center just after 11:20 p.m. Oct. 22, the night of the baby’s birth. Police say the father hid the infant in a backpack, but the baby’s security bracelet alerted the hospital to his leaving the premises.

Court records reveal that the mother, who has not been named, tested positive for THC and amphetamines at the time of the infant’s birth, which could result in the child being taken from the parents by the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services, KNOE reports.

The infant, who was found safe just a few hours after his father took him, needed to be monitored for possible withdrawal symptoms, according to hospital staff.

 

Continue Reading

Crime

Mass shooting in Greenwood leaves two dead among the 10 shot

Published

on

A mass shooting in Greenwood, Mississippi, Saturday claimed the life of two people among the 10 who were shot.

Siblings from Chicago died Saturday night as a result of being shot at a gathering after their grandmother’s funeral. They have been identified as Jonathan Pitts, 42, and his sister Katrina Pitts, 41, according to the Greenwood Commonwealth.

The shooter had fled the scene by the time police arrived, Greenwood Police Deputy Chief Marvin Hammond said.

The Vicksburg Daily News will provide additional information as we know it.

Continue Reading

Crime

Judge and son both dead after shootings in Moss Point

Published

on

Justice Court Judge Sheila Jackson Osgood (photo from her campaign page)

A Justice Court judge in Moss Point, Mississippi, was killed Wednesday. Her son, the suspect in her homicide, is also dead at the hands of police.

Moss Point police officers found long time Justice Court Judge Sheila Jackson Osgood, 65, murdered Wednesday. The man suspected of her murder is Gregory Jackson Jr. her 45-year-old son. Jackson was shot and killed by police officers.

At approximately 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, Moss Point police officers were dispatched to the 3600 block of Davis Street for a welfare check. The officers checked the home but did not contact anyone there.

According to a press release from the Moss Point Police Department, officers were again dispatched to the residence about an hour later, this time for a disturbance. The officers heard gunshots after they arrived, and as they approached the door of the house, Jackson charged them brandishing a large knife. He did not respond to several demands from officers to drop his weapon and continued to advance on them. The officers shot Jackson, fatally wounding him.

Officers then entered the residence and found Judge Osgood laying on the floor, the apparent victim of a homicide.

The shootings are under investigation by the Jackson County district attorney’s office, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation and the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department. In accordance with Moss Point Police Department policy, the officers involved have been placed on administrative leave pending a thorough investigation by an outside agency. The names of the officers will be withheld until the case is presented to the grand jury. No officers were injured during this incident.

Continue Reading

Vicksburg
68°
Mostly Cloudy
7:16am6:18pm CDT
Feels like: 68°F
Wind: 4mph ENE
Humidity: 79%
Pressure: 30.07"Hg
UV index: 4
MonTueWed
75/59°F
79/66°F
73/59°F

Categories

Categories

Trending

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!