Monday, October 26, 2020

Attorney charged with conspiracy in Mississippi Dept. of Education bribery case

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U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst announced a Tennessee attorney has been charged in a federal indictment with conspiracy, bribery and interstate transportation in aid of bribery.

The indictment alleges 47-year-old Errol Harmon, of Memphis, conspired with Cerissa Renfroe Neal, the former Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE), to defraud the State of Mississippi and the United States. Three other Tennessee businessmen, Joseph B. Kyles, David B. Hunt, and Lambert Martin, were also allegedly involved in the conspiracy.

Neal, Hunt, Kyles, and Martin have all been separately indicted and charged with federal crimes for their roles in the scheme. Prosecutor said Neal used her position in MDE to steer contract awards to Kyles and his co-conspirators’ companies in return for bribery and kickbacks paid to Neal from 2013-2016.

Harmon’s alleged role in the scheme was to receive money from Kyles and convey that money as payments to Neal. Prosecutors said Kyles gave cash or wrote a check to Harmon multiple times. On or about the same day, Harmon then wrote a check to Neal for substantially the same sum and caused that check to be delivered to Neal. According to prosecutors, Neal received more than $42,000 directly or indirectly from her co-conspirators.

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Harmon will appear for arraignment September 24, 2020, before United States Magistrate Judge Linda Anderson in Jackson at 1:30 p.m. Neal, Hunt, Kyles and Martin have each appeared in court for arraignment earlier in August and September, and were all released on conditions of bond pending trial.

If convicted, Harmon faces maximum penalties of five years in prison for the count of conspiracy, 10 years in prison for the count of bribery, and five years in prison for the count of interstate transport in aid of bribery. Each count also can merit a fine of up to $250,000.

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