Mississippi woman gets prison sentence for summer school feeding program fraud
Clarksdale Press Register, The (MS)
State Auditor Shad White announced today that Carol Jackson has been given the maximum prison sentence allowed by state law after she admitted to committing fraud and diverting over $40,000 away from needy children in the Mississippi Delta. The sentencing order was recorded in Judge W. Ashley Hines's courtroom earlier this week.
Special Agents from the Auditor's office arrested Jackson in August of 2021 after a local grand jury indicted her for fraud. Through a nonprofit organization, Jackson obtained a government grant meant to provide meals for needy schoolchildren in the summer months, but she actually used the funds to travel, write large checks to herself, and make cash withdrawals from an ATM at a local casino.
Carol Jackson, the former executive director of On Track, pleaded guilty to fraud in Sunflower County. On Track was "supposedly administering a Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) program meant to provide meals to needy schoolchildren during the summer months."
Judge Hines ordered Jackson to spend 5 years in prison and pay $62,627.66 in restitution along with court and bond fees. District Attorney Dewayne Richardson's Office prosecuted the case.
"The message here is clear: there are serious consequences for stealing from the taxpayers. Other fraudsters should be on notice," said State Auditor Shad White. "Prosecutors make decisions about who to charge for a crime, so thank you to both the investigators at the Office of the State Auditor and the prosecutors whose work got us here."
Suspected fraud can be reported to the Auditor's office online at any time by clicking the red button at www.osa.ms.gov or via telephone during normal business hours at 1-(800)-321-1275.
Coahoma County cases
The State Auditor's office also has also revealed and issued demands for several alleged embezzlement cases in Coahoma County that have yet to be prosecuted.
A former Clarksdale Public Utilities employee was charged with embezzlement in June of this year following an investigation by the State Audit Department.
Auditor White said at that time special agents from his office arrested Shoral Bound, the former lead cashier for the Clarksdale Public Utilities.
White said Bounds was indicted for embezzlement by a Coahoma County grand jury. A $182,771.97 demand letter was presented to her upon arrest. The demand letter includes interest and investigative expenses.
Bounds is accused of embezzling customer utility payments and manipulating the computer systems to show that her daily collections were less than she collected.
If convicted, Bounds faces 20 years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.
A $50,000 surety bond covers Bounds' employment at the Clarksdale Public Utilities. Surety bonds are similar to insurance designed to protect taxpayers from corruption. Bounds will remain liable for the total amount of the demand in addition to criminal proceedings.
This is not the first time CPU has seen the state step in and conduct an investigation into possible malfeasance.
On Dec. 8, 2015, former CPU Office Manager Maple Melton was indicted on nine counts of embezzlement.
A formal demand in the amount of $3,871.92 was issued on Dec. 14, 2015. On March 17, 2017, this case was transmitted to the Office of the Attorney General. For Fiscal Year 2021, no payments have been received. Melton is currently awaiting trial.
In a similar investigation by the State Auditor two former Coahoma Community College employees were charged in one of the largest embezzlement schemes at that time after a year of investigation by the state auditor's office led to a demand of over $900,000 in September 2018.
White said multiple cards were being used and, as Stacie Neal and Gwendolyn Jefferson kept everything a secret, the amount of money they were spending increased. He added they were going on to the Amazon website and purchasing items such as watches, shoes and a chandelier. They also purchased gifts for their friends.
That case was also listed as pending in Coahoma County Circuit Court and a 2021 Exceptions Report by the State Audit Department said no repayment has been made at that time.
According to White, at a press conference in the Coahoma County Courthouse at the time the charges were announced, the investigation concluded Stacie Neal of the CCC accounts payable business office and administrative assistant Gwendolyn Jefferson embezzled an estimated $758,000 from 2013-17.
The embezzled amount, plus the $194,000 interest and $28,000 cost for the investigation add up to the $981,600.64 Neal and Jefferson are being told to pay back.
Coahoma County District Attorney Brenda Mitchell said at that time, if there is a prosecution, it would be in Coahoma County, but the timetable is a question mark. The two women have been formally indicted, but no court date has been set.
At the time the investigation was announced, White said the auditor's office only deals with civil matters and district attorney Brenda Mitchell will make the decision on whether to file charges and prosecute.
An Audit Department investigation has gotten one local conviction involving a woman from Coahoma County.
On May 29, 2019, White issued a formal demand in the amount of $142,524.35 against former Coahoma County Tourism Commission Director Kappi Allen.
On June 24, 2020, Allen was sentenced to serve 15 years in MDOC with 14 years suspended and the remaining year to serve on MDOC Intensive Supervision Program. Allen was given 15 years to pay restitution in full. For Fiscal Year 2021, payments in the amount of $2,920.50 have been received, leaving a balance of $139,603.85.