When I took office as State Auditor nearly three years ago, I promised that I would do everything in my power to deter, investigate, and bring to justice those who embezzled public money. In that time, my team has recovered millions of dollars, and I am proud of what we have accomplished. Our collections for taxpayers last year were up more than 350% compared to the year prior.
As we start the spring, I wanted to update you on a few cases in your area that we have been working on.
Just a few weeks ago, investigators from my office arrested Mardis Jones for embezzlement and issued him a demand letter for over $1 million dollars, the second largest criminal demand in the history of the Auditor’s office. Mr. Jones was the Executive Director of Tunica County Housing Incorporated (TCHI), an organization that used public funds issued by the Tunica Board of Supervisors to rehabilitate dilapidated homes owned by low-income citizens. Unfortunately, Mr. Jones was allegedly using almost none of the money for that purpose, and was instead pocketing it for himself—embezzling over $750,000. My investigators determined that less than 20% of the nearly $2 million transferred to TCHI was actually paid to contractors renovating houses.
It is always unfortunate when Mississippi taxpayers are defrauded, but it is especially sad when the elderly and poor are taken advantage of, like what has happened in this case. I’m thankful that my office and the Attorney General’s office are working to bring Mr. Jones to justice.
In another recent case, former Walls, Mississippi, Police Chief Herb Brewer has paid back the entire amount that was demanded of him following his arrest early last year. Mr. Brewer sold seized vehicles to family members and pocketed the proceeds. Brewer has since pleaded guilty and will not be able to hold public employment again. I’m glad to see that the taxpayers of Desoto County have been made whole.
Finally, last January, special agents from my office were able to identify and arrest Linder Howze-Campbell, a former employee of the Quitman County School District, for embezzlement, issuing her a demand letter for over $72,000. As part of her job, Ms. Howze-Campbell was tasked with overseeing the district’s gifted program, and after a routine audit uncovered suspicious spending, my agents discovered that Howze-Campbell was operating a fraudulent business that held gifted education work contracts with the school district. As part of her fraudulent scheme, Ms. Howze-Campbell would allegedly send the checks received from the school district related to those work contracts directly to a church that Ms. Howze-Campbell pastored. I want to thank my dedicated team of investigators and the Mississippi Department of Education for their work in uncovering this fraud.
We have been diligently working on your behalf, and thanks to the work of my investigations unit, we will continue to safeguard your tax dollars. Too often, the effort exerted by these investigators and the auditors here happens out of view of the press cameras. They do not get the praise they deserve, but their efforts are crucial when it comes to protecting public funds and ensuring that those who choose to break the law are held accountable.
As I made clear when I took this job, protecting your tax dollars is my highest priority. You deserve a team that works just as hard to protect your money as you worked to earn it in the first place. As long as I am your State Auditor, that is what we will aim to do.
Shad White is the 42nd State Auditor of Mississippi