The State Auditor’s office has been busy over the last year. Auditors and investigators here have been working hard to safeguard the money of Mississippi taxpayers. I wake up every day excited to go to work with the dedicated men and women at my office, and I appreciate their efforts to ensure your money is protected.
Because of their hard work, several of our cases have concluded with a conviction this year, and a few remain ongoing. Notably, five people have now been convicted in state court for their crimes in the sprawling welfare case my office uncovered in 2020. All five are scheduled to be sentenced early next year.
But taxpayers know my office investigates all kinds of cases—from big to small and from Corinth to Bay St. Louis and everything in between. They also deserve to know what my office has been doing in their area, so I’ve included some updates on recent Pine Belt cases below.
In August 2022, former Jones County Road Department foreman Roland Graham pleaded guilty to embezzlement and conspiracy. Graham used Jones County equipment and personnel to perform demolition work for a private contractor. He also directed disposal fees from the demolition work be billed to Jones County.
Judge Williamson sentenced Graham to eight years in the custody of MDOC. He will serve 30 months of the sentence day for day in prison, and he will then spend time in post-release supervision. Graham was also ordered to pay full restitution, a $3,000 fine, and all court costs associated with the embezzlement and conspiracy charges.
In Lamar County, Juanyana Holloway pleaded guilty to embezzlement in August 2022. She is a former deputy municipal clerk in the Town of Sumrall who was arrested in November 2021. Holloway embezzled cash as Sumrall residents paid their water bills. Holloway omitted cash collections on daily bank deposit slips to conceal the scheme. Over two years, she embezzled over $13,000 from the Town of Sumrall.
A judge ordered Holloway to pay $25,000 to her surety bond company, a $1,000 fine, and all court costs. She is now convicted of a felony and can never handle taxpayer money again. The State Auditor’s Office has already recovered the entire amount of Holloway’s demand letter and returned it to local taxpayers.
Last December, special agents from the State Auditor’s office arrested Dendrick Hurd in Forrest County. Hurd abused his position as an MDOC probation/parole officer to embezzle money from people attempting to pay court-ordered fees and fines. Hurd has now pleaded guilty to four counts of embezzlement and has been convicted of a felony offense. He will serve six years in prison and five years in post-release supervision.
Gregory Sanford, former Covington County Emergency Manager, was indicted for fraud and embezzlement by a local grand jury in January 2022. Special Agents from my office arrested him and presented him with a $17,063.59 demand letter that covered the amount plus interest and investigative expenses.
Sanford is accused of embezzling from the county by creating and submitting fictitious invoices for nonexistent work. The invoices were paid by the county with checks, and Sanford allegedly converted the money to his own personal use. Prosecution remains ongoing. Sanford will face up to 15 years in prison and $15,000 in fines if convicted of all charges.
I am grateful for everyday citizens who reach out to my office to report wrongdoing and to the men and women of my office who investigate these suspected crimes. I am also thankful for the prosecutors who see these cases through. My office relies on these prosecutors because we do not have the authority to prosecute cases. Only prosecutors decide who will face criminal charges.
As you can see, it’s been a busy year. My team and I are ready for another busy year in 2023, working on behalf of Mississippi taxpayers. Big or small, my office will continue to investigate cases where taxpayers have been victimized by fraud or corruption.
This article was originally published in the Hattiesburg-American