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Purdue Pharma agrees to plead guilty and pay $8.3 billion regarding OxyContin

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Purdue Pharma, manufacturer of OxyContin, the drug many say began the opioid crisis in the United States, agreed to plead guilty Wednesday to federal criminal charges in a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice and also agreed to pay $8.3 billion in fines.

The charges against the company stem from its marketing of the highly addictive drug and its role in the nationwide crisis that has killed more than 450,000 Americans since 1990. Purdue has agreed to plead guilty a three-count felony information charging it with one count of dual-object conspiracy to defraud the United States and to violate the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and two counts of conspiracy to violate the Federal Anti-Kickback Statute.

“The abuse and diversion of prescription opioids has contributed to a national tragedy of addiction and deaths, in addition to those caused by illicit street opioids,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen in a statement “With criminal guilty pleas, a federal settlement of more than $8 billion, and the dissolution of a company and repurposing its assets entirely for the public’s benefit, the resolution in today’s announcement reaffirms that the Department of Justice will not relent in its multipronged efforts to combat the opioids crisis.”

The criminal resolution includes the largest penalties ever levied against a pharmaceutical manufacturer, including a criminal fine of $3.544 billion and an additional $2 billion in criminal forfeiture. For the $2 billion forfeiture, the company will pay $225 million on the effective date of the bankruptcy, and the department is willing to credit the value conferred by the company to state and local governments under the department’s anti-piling on and coordination policy. Purdue has also agreed to a civil settlement in the amount of $2.8 billion to resolve its civil liability under the False Claims Act.

Separately, the Sackler family has agreed to pay $225 million in damages to resolve its civil False Claims Act liability.

The deal does not release the company or its owners from further criminal charges, and the DOJ investigation continues. It also does not protect the company or its owners from other civil litigation. Thousands of lawsuits have been filed against Purdue and the Sackler family.

“Purdue deeply regrets and accepts responsibility for the misconduct detailed by the Department of Justice in the agreed statement of facts,” Steve Miller, chairman of Purdue’s board of directors since 2018, said in a statement.

The timing of the deal suggests that the company wanted to settle under the Trump administration, believing it could get a better deal than with a Biden DOJ. Numerous state attorneys general have raised questions as to how effective the deal is as punishment for the Sackler family. Their $225 million settlement is pocket change for a family whose estimated wealth is at least $13 billion, much of it coming from sales of OxyContin diverted to family-controlled trusts and holding companies even as the company was under investigation.

“Purdue is doing everything they can to get this deal done in this administration,” Joe Rice, a negotiator for local governments that are suing Purdue, told The New York Times. “It’s advantageous to both sides.”

The company filed bankruptcy last year and will likely emerge as a new corporation once the dust settles. In the meantime, it’s unlikely that it will pay the entire amount of the settlement as creditors typically pay pennies on the dollar during bankruptcies. As of now, the DOJ is in line with other creditors.

“DOJ failed,” Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey wrote on Twitter in a response to the news of the settlement. “Justice in this case requires exposing the truth and holding the perpetrators accountable, not rushing a settlement to beat an election. I am not done with Purdue and the Sacklers, and I will never sell out the families who have been calling for justice for so long.”

Massachusetts has scheduled depositions next month against some Sackler family members. The family continues to claim it acted “ethically and lawfully” and that “all financial distributions were proper.”

Read about how opioid addiction has affected Vicksburg:
‘It was just kind of normal.’  A Vicksburg family struggles with opioid addiction
“‘This makes me feel better.’ A daughter’s story.”
‘That’s his nature.’ Opioids and violence destroy a military marriage

Crime

High speed chase ends in fiery crash

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(photo by David Day)

A high-speed chase Saturday evening that began near the Waffle House in Vicksburg has ended in a crash in Claiborne County and a vehicle in flames.

First reports indicate the incident began around 5:10 p.m. as an argument at the Waffle House at 4100 Pemberton Square Blvd. A man and woman left the scene and stopped at a Shell gas station on U.S. Highway 61 South where the man pulled the woman, who is pregnant, out of the vehicle by her hair.

The man, Bojara O’Quinn of Claiborne County, then fled, leading Vicksburg police officer Michael Battle on a high-speed chase south on 61 South. The chase exceeded 110 mph at times.

The chase ended just inside the Claiborne County line on Shiloh Road in a crash where the vehicle, reportedly a rental with Illinois plates, burst into flames. The crash occurred right at 5:30 p.m.

O’Quinn is in custody and received minor injuries in the crash. The woman involved received very minor injuries and is apparently safe.

Deputies with the Warren County Sheriff’s Office and the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Department, and troopers with the Mississippi Highway Patrol assisted in O’Quinn’s capture.

Bojara O’Quinn (photo by David Day)

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Crime

Woman in custody for Friday’s shooting over a parking space

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UPDATE: Akeyah Daniels, 26, of Vicksburg, appeared before Judge Penny Lawson on Saturday in Vicksburg Municipal Court. Lawson set her bond at $50,000 and bound her over to the Warren County grand jury.

Original story:

The woman is in custody in connection with a shooting that occurred Friday, allegedly over a parking space.

The shooting took place around 3:30 p.m. Friday at an apartment building at 2230 Grove St. in Vicksburg.

Akeyah Daniels, 26, turned herself in to Vicksburg police officers at 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 28. She was arrested at the police station.

Three men were also briefly detained and released in connection with the shooting, according to the Vicksburg police.

Daniels faces one count of drive-by shooting is being held without bond until her initial appearance, which is taking place Saturday.

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Business

Vicksburg entrepreneurs got the basics of business ownership at boot camp

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Kendra Reed and Willie Johnson were among the dozen entrepreneurs attending the Vicksburg Entrepreneur Boot Camp. (photos submitted)

Last week participants graduated from the first Vicksburg Entrepreneur Boot Camp where 12 individuals received information to start or expand their own businesses.

Myra Harris, who recently started a company making masks, joined the boot camp shortly after her grandchildren informed her of the opportunity.

“They provided all the resources you would need to start your business, and they also made themselves available after class just in case you had any questions,” Harris said.

Vicksburg Entrepreneur Boot Camp participants. Top L to R: Marcus Dufour (Vicksburg Warren Partnership), Tim Sanford, Cathy Sanford, Olivia Foshee, Amy Warren, Patricia Anderson, Willie Johnson, Myra Harris, Ginger Donahue (Regions Bank) and Pablo Diaz (Vicksburg Warren Partnership). Bottom L to R: Gwen Green, Kendra Reed, Rob Burnham (Instructor), De’Jonae Curtis and Anthony Curtis. Not pictured William Wooten. (photo courtesy Vicksburg Chamber of Commerce)

Retired businessman Rob Burnham facilitated the class and helped the participants plan out their businesses, assisting with marketing, accounting and distribution. Marcus Dufour and Pablo Diaz from the Vicksburg Chamber of Commerce hosted the class, bringing in successful entrepreneurs as speakers including Kevin Roberts who owns Fit Chef Catering in Vicksburg.

“Every speaker gave us the opportunity to ask questions, and it definitely gave me the information I need to open a business, and I would recommend the class 100%,” said participant Willie Johnson.

Johnson was born and raised in Vicksburg. He’s now retired from the military and looking to launch a consulting business, which is what led him to attending the boot camp.

By having capable individuals at the boot camp such as James Harper from the Small Business Development Center at Hinds Community College, the participants were able to learn about available grants and other resources for entrepreneurs.

Starting a business can be stressful for first time entrepreneurs, but the boot camp provided planning advice to the participants, breaking down the information that participants need to launch their businesses.

“In the business process of starting and running a business, owners get very busy running the day-to-day aspects,” said boot camp participant Kendra Reed. “Entrepreneurship Bootcamp gave me the chance to step back and plan through the whole process to prepare my new company to be successful.”

Reed is the owner of Delta Dirt Shirt, and she was proud to be a graduating member of the camp.

Now that the camp has ended, the participants are in competition for a $1,000 seed grant for the best business plan presentation. A winner will be announced Dec. 8.

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