2 men charged with kidnapping university professor

Arveanious Smith

By Monica Land

JACKSON – Two Jackson County men are behind bars after federal authorities said they allegedly beat and kidnapped a 63-year-old-retired Alcorn State University professor, stole his car and drove him across

the state line.

Arveanious Smith

Arveanious Smith, aka “A.V.,” 31, and Travis Jerome Washington, 18, both of Pascagoula, were arrested by FBI agents and Pascagoula Police officers on Feb. 14.

These arrests were the result of a joint investigation by the FBI Safe Streets Task Force and the Pascagoula Police Department, assisted by the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, into the Feb. 12 kidnapping of the professor.

According to the criminal complaint filed by FBI task force agent Ivan Kovacevich, Smith and Washington caught a ride on Feb. 9 from Moss Point to Natchez, and they later went to the Fayette area, where Smith had relatives, The Sun Herald reported.

On Feb. 11, they decided to return to Pascagoula, but needed cash and a ride. Smith mentioned going by the professor’s home because he was acquainted with him.

The Sun Herald said Smith and Washington reportedly walked to the professor’s home and asked to use his telephone. The professor invited them in, Smith used the phone and the three sat down for a visit. Smith asked for a ride back to Pascagoula, but the professor refused and Smith and Washington left.

A short time later, Smith hatched a plan to return and assault the professor to get the cash and vehicle they needed to get home, The Sun Herald said.

They allegedly went back about 7 p.m. Tuesday night and again asked to use the victim‘s phone. The professor kept his security door locked, but went to retrieve the cordless phone. When he opened the door slightly thand Smith the phone, Smith allegedly forced his way in.

“Smith forced the victim onto a living room couch and struck him in the face with a closed fist,” the complaint said. “Smith then began to bind his hands behind his back using a telephone cord.”

Travis Jerome Washington

Smith, the report said, slammed the man’s head against a kitchen countertop and ordered him to disclose where his wallet and firearms were. The two continued to assault the professor in his bedroom, when they went to retrieve his wallet, which contained $50 cash and credit cards. They ordered the victim to tell them his account PIN numbers or he’d be killed.

The professor’s mouth was duct-taped and he was later forced into the back seat of his personal vehicle, a 2008 Ford Edge.

Smith told the professor he had a gun.

The suspects drove to Louisiana and stopped at a gas station in Sorrento where Smith used the professor’s debit card to get cash. They drove back to Mississippi, stopping at a gas station near Bay St. Louis, where Smith reportedly withdrew more cash from an ATM.

Smith attempted to use the professor’s credit cards on at least two more occasions, but he was not successful.

The professor was released and called police.

Smith and Washington were arrested and charged federally with kidnapping. If convicted, they face up to a life sentence in federal prison.

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