Over $1.3 Million returned to taxpayers in February

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The office of State Auditor Shad White has returned over $1.3 million in stolen or misused funds back to Mississippi taxpayers.

White says significant amounts were returned in cases involving several town officials in Pelahatchie; the mayor of Aberdeen, Maurice Howard; the former Chancery Clerk of Humphreys County, Lawrence Browder; the former town clerk of Raleigh, Helen Bounds; and the commissioners of the Town Creek Master Water Management Board:

*In May 2018 Special Agents from the Auditor’s office issued demand letters to 10 current and former town officials in Pelahatchie after they used restricted law enforcement bank accounts to operate the town. After the Attorney General’s office litigated the case to recover additional damages, $543,038.04 was returned to the town in February. The case has now been paid in full.

*Special Agents arrested Maurice Howard for embezzlement in October 2019 after he was accused of stealing from the City of Aberdeen by taking travel advance checks from the city and failing to attend the corresponding out-of-town meeting. The $11,649.34 demand issued to him has now been paid in full by a surety bond company, and Howard remains liable in criminal proceedings.

*Former Humphreys County Chancery Clerk Lawrence Browder was arrested in January 2019 after he falsified court records to steal over $30,000 from Humphreys County residents. He also overpaid himself by more than $200,000 during his time in office. Browder entered a guilty plea to the charges against him and must complete his court-ordered sentence. The Auditor recovered $92,521.94 last month from a surety bond company and returned it to the Humphreys County Board of Supervisors. Browder remains liable for over $187,000 of the demand issued to him.

*Helen Bounds was arrested in November 2019 after she was indicted for embezzling from the Town of Raleigh by issuing extra payroll checks to herself. The Auditor’s office collected the full amount of Bounds’ demand letter from a surety bond company and returned it to the Town of Raleigh. Bounds still faces criminal charges in a Smith County trial currently scheduled for next month.

*In March 2019, Auditor White announced the commissioners of the Town Creek Master Water Management District had been issued demand letters worth a total of over $520,000. The commissioners voted to reimburse and pay themselves in excess of the allowable amount. In February, the Auditor recovered $298,050.83 from a surety bond company and returned it to the affected taxpayers in Lee, Pontotoc, Prentiss, and Union Counties.

“Since coming into office in July 2018, the Auditor’s office has identified over $5 million in stolen or misspent public money and has now recovered and returned over $4 million back to the taxpayers where it belongs,” said White. “February was our most successful month yet for returning money to the public during my tenure, and I look forward to more months like this in the future.”

Suspected fraud can be reported to the Auditor’s office online at www.osa.ms.gov or call 1-(800)-321-1275 during normal business hours. W

When the Auditor’s office successfully concludes cases and money is recovered, that money is returned to the government office from which the money was originally taken.

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