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Mississippi files lawsuit against company accused in business scam

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(Photo by Blogtrepreneur - Legal Gavel, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50979400)

The Mississippi Attorney General’s Office has filed a lawsuit against Centurion Filing Services LLC, for alleged deceptive solicitations targeting new Mississippi businesses.

The action follows countless complaints to the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Business Services Division and a cease-and-desist letter from the AG’s office, to which the company has not responded.

“This scam has affected more than 2,700 of our small businesses,” said Secretary of State Michael Watson. “The COVID-19 pandemic continues to hinder our business community, and no Mississippian should face the additional nightmare of becoming a victim of fraud. I’m proud of my team for working diligently to gather the facts in this case, and I’m thankful for the attorney general’s partnership in bringing justice those who have been impacted.”

Watson said his office first received reports about Centurion in February. According to customers, the company, which operates under the fictitious name, MS Certificate Service, targets new businesses by sending a misleading “2020 Certificate of Existence Request Form” through the mail (see the image below). The misleading document encourages business owners to pay a $90.50 fee to receive a Mississippi Certificate of Existence. To date, more than 2,700 businesses have been affected, and the scammers have profited between $170,000 and $260,000.

The lawsuit notes that Centurion’s letters include elements meant to make new business owners believe they must make the payment through the form, which is intentionally designed to look like an official State document.

“Con artists like Centurion are making themselves out to be official state agencies in an attempt to exploit vulnerable business owners in our state,” Attorney General Lynn Fitch said in a statement. “This lawsuit was filed to stop Centurion’s fraudulent practices and to protect Mississippi’s small-business owners.”

Mississippi businesses can receive a Certificate of Good Standing from the Secretary of State’s website. Online processing costs $25 and the certificate is available immediately after purchase.

Businesses can report deceptive or misleading solicitations such as these to the Business Services Division at 601-359-1633, to the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-281-4418 or email [email protected].

An example of the deceptive promotion.

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Vicksburg native Jaron Smith launched Run Your Gun Tactical to train firearm users

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(photo courtesy Jaron Smith)

Vicksburg native Jaron Smith has launched Run Your Gun Tactical, a firearm training and manufacturing company based in Brandon, Mississippi.

Smith is a 2010 graduate of Vicksburg High School where he was known for his intelligence and being a great student.

He started his company in early August, and it has taken off in a good direction with Smith teaching multiple classes on firearm safety.

The company began after an incident at a local church where windows were broken out. The incident prompted the pastor to investigate firearm protection, and Smith stepped in to help by getting certified as a firearms instructor. Run Your Gun Tactical now deals with church security where Smith trains someone in the church to be prepared for incidents such as an active shooter situation.

“I want to build confidence in people while they are handling a firearm,” Smith said. “Safety cannot and will not be compromised.”

Smith and Run Your Gun Tactical are trained to handle any type of firearm but only offers training in handguns and AR-15-style rifles at this time. One of the purposes for the company is getting individuals prepared for concealed carry permits, which are popular in Mississippi. He gives firearm training to individuals 13 years old and up, and training with Run Your Gun Tactical begins with a classroom session before hands-on training.

The company is growing more each week and Smith has major goals for his business. In just a short amount of time, he has held firearm training classes in Tupelo and Greenwood, Mississippi.

By the beginning of next year or sooner, Run Your Gun Tactical will be able to manufacture and sell firearms made by Smith.

“Success can be yours,” Smith said. “Do not be afraid to succeed, and there will be many obstacles you will have to face.”

For more information, visit the Run Your Gun Tactical website or Facebook page.

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Business

Farmer Jim’s Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze open through Oct. 31

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A variety of gourds and pumpkins are available at Farmer Jim"s (photo courtesy Farmer Jim"s)

Farmer Jim’s Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze co-owner Lynn Newman says they are thrilled to be open again this year as the Delta Backwater Flood of 2019 prevented them from planting last year.

The business is open to the public from now until Oct. 31 on Fridays from noon to 6 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Farmer Jim Newman (photo courtesy Farmer Jim’s)

They are open Tuesday through Thursday by appointment only to groups of 15 or more. Please call 662-907-3359 to schedule an appointment for a group.

Admission is $7 per person for ages 1 year and up and includes access to the corn maze.

Free admission per person with the purchase of a pumpkin valued at $5 or higher.

Best value is the $10 ticket per person for all activities and includes a traditional $5 orange pumpkin.

Night rates for a scheduled group of 15 or more is $10 each. Ask about set up rate for a bonfire.

Check the Facebook page for nighttime activities including the Haunted Maze Oct. 24.

Social distancing is required. If you cannot social distance, they ask that you wear a mask.

Farmer Jim’s Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze is located on state Highway 16 west of Rolling Fork, Mississippi. For directions, call or visit the farm’s website.

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Hinds CC and Continental Tire announce new apprentice programs

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From left, Brenda Myers, state director of the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship in Mississippi, Hinds President Dr. Stephen Vacik, Dr. Chad Stocks, Hinds Vice President of Workforce & Community Development (Photo courtesy Hinds Community College/April Garon)

Hinds Community College and Continental Tire have signed an agreement to launch two new programs that will support the academic goals and professional development of students who are interested in manufacturing careers.

The Production Apprentice and Mechatronics Apprentice Programs offer paid, on-the-job experience with a global company and industry certifications.

“Continental is proud to partner with Hinds Community College to establish a program that will create a solid foundation for many careers in Mississippi,” said Michael Egner, plant manager of the Continental Plant along Interstate 20 in Clinton, in a statement.

The program will be open to students who are dually enrolled in high school and the college’s Industrial Maintenance and Mechanics program. Initially, the program will be offered to high school juniors and seniors at Clinton High School and Hinds County Career and Technical Center.

The Mechatronics Apprentice Program, a combination of both mechanical and electrical disciplines, is a growing industry within advanced manufacturing. The program will be open to Hinds students who complete the company’s Production Apprentice Program.

“The Hinds Community College team is extremely excited about this partnership,” said Hinds President Dr. Stephen A. Vacik. “It is a great opportunity for students, and we are committed to implementing exceptional programming that allows us to train citizens in central Mississippi to work with a world class company.”

Both programs require students to balance a 2.5 GPA and 32-hour workweek. Participants will receive paid tuition and book fees while in the apprentice programs.

In 2017, Continental and HCC introduced the Maintenance Technician Internship Program.

Four students spent the summer in Mount Vernon, Illinois, working with specialists at Continental’s tire plant. Twelve of the interns were promoted to full-time maintenance technicians at the new plant in Clinton.

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