Sentencing set for man convicted of FEMA fraud

News Briefs From Across The State

By Monica Land

Claimed house was damaged during April 2011 storms

A Dec. 5 sentencing date has been set for an Okolona man who pleaded guilty to FEMA fra

ud. Ronnie G. Beard pleaded guilty in the case in July in U.S. District Court in Aberdeen.

Beard was indicted in December 2011 on two counts that he lied and embezzled money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

He claimed a house in Okolona was his primary residence and was damaged during April 2011 storms.

He pleaded guilty to making a fraudulent application that the property qualified for disaster assistance.

Court reverses $1.2M ruling against USM

The Mississippi Supreme Court has ruled against three former University of Southern Mississippi soccer coaches who claimed sexual harassment and sexual discrimination.

The Hattiesburg American reported the ruling reversed a 2008 Forrest County Circuit verdict that awarded a total of $1.2 million in damages to the coaches.

The Supreme Court found insufficient evidence to the jury’s verdicts in favor of former head coach John Vincent and assistant coaches John Mollaghan and Ged O’Connor, who claimed sexual harassment, gender discrimination and retaliation at the hands of Southern Miss employees.

Vincent, Mollaghan and O’Connor filed suit in 2000, naming as defendants former Southern Miss athletic director Richard Giannini, senior women’s administrator Sonya Varnell, former Southern Miss President Horace Fleming and the university.

Court filing: Man to plead guilty in harboring

Federal court records indicate a man plans to plead guilty to a charge of harboring illegal immigrants in south Mississippi.

Court records say Juan Escobar Barajas worked to harbor illegal immigrants with a group that included the owners and managers of Mexican restaurants in Poplarville and Picayune.

Barajas allegedly owned several houses in Picayune that were used to house illegal immigrants.

Barajas’ lawyer, Peter Barrett, said in a filing that Barajas will plead guilty in the case.

2 law enforcement officials cleared in shootings

Two law enforcement officers involved in deadly shootings earlier this year have been cleared of any criminal charges.

The Mississippi Bureau of Investigations conducted an investigation into the June 24 shooting of 40-year-old Gerald John Wagner by a Mississippi Highway Patrolman and the July 30 shooting of 22-year-old Gregory Martinez Hughes by a Tupelo police officer and presented the findings to a grand jury.

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reported the district attorney’s office said the grand jury found the officers acted within the regulations of their authority and in self-defense.

The Mississippi Highway Patrol says the MBI investigation showed Hughes drew a small caliber handgun and fired a shot at an officer.

The highway patrol said Wagner fired a total of four shots before being shot.

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