Friday, October 23, 2020

Former Mississippi city clerk pleads guilty to money laundering

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A former administrator for a Mississippi city has pleaded guilty to money laundering and making false statements on a federal tax return, federal authorities said.

Randy James, 56, who was once city clerk of Bay Springs in Jasper County, entered the plea Wednesday before Senior U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett, U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst said in a news release.

“I commend local bank employees who spotted this criminal activity, as well as our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners and prosecutors who were diligent in catching this crook and holding him accountable,” Hurst said. “We will continue to do all that we can to root out criminality and corruption in all forms of government.”

James faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for money laundering. He also faces up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine for making a false statement on an income tax return. Sentencing is set for Jan. 12.

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According to Hurst’s office, James had control over certain financial aspects of the city during 2017 and 2018. Over that period, James embezzled just over $300,000 by creating fake invoices from fictitious companies for services that were never approved or incurred by the city, authorities said.

James diverted city funds by cashing city checks at a local bank and wiring those funds overseas to international scammers in hopes of winning money in a lottery scheme, federal prosecutors said. In addition, James made false statements on his personal federal income tax return by under-reporting his income by $193,331.

In a plea deal, James agreed to pay a total of $420,562 in restitution.

“This loss is massive for a town the size of Bay Springs — over 10% of their annual budget. Our small towns cannot afford to lose a single penny right now,” State Auditor Shad White said.

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