JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) — A county supervisor, a purchasing clerk and three vendors in northeast Mississippi’s Alcorn County have been arrested on corruption charges tied to alleged embezzlement of public money, the state auditor said Wednesday.
Auditor Stacey Pickering said indictments were handed down by a local grand jury Tuesday after his office conducted a yearlong probe that he called the most elaborate investigation his staff has conducted during the nearly seven years he has been auditor.
The auditor’s office is continuing to investigate the Alcorn County sheriff’s department and jail, said Pickering, who mentioned the recent resignation of the jail’s warden, a former lawmaker who owns a private prison company.
“Public corruption is not going to be tolerated,” Pickering said in a phone interview.
Supervisor Jimmy Dallan “Dal” Nelms, 42, of Glen, is charged with 156 felony counts, including embezzlement and fraudulently obtaining public funds, Pickering said. Nelms is accused of several illegal actions, including receiving payments from a vendor who sold heavy equipment to the county. Among other things, Nelms is accused of using a county-owned vehicle to take his own boat to and from Arkansas, and of using a county account at Lowe’s to buy items for his home, Pickering said.
Alcorn County purchasing clerk William Paul Rhodes, 55, of Corinth, is charged with 13 felony counts, including conspiracy to commit embezzlement and hindering prosecution, Pickering said. The Board of Supervisors put Rhodes on administrative leave in July, days after an investigator for the auditor’s office filed a sworn statement saying Rhodes had photographed some of the auditor’s investigative files and shared them with Nelms.
The auditor said vendors Jimmy Ray Mitchell, 43, of Corinth; Joseph Lin McNair Jr., 39, of Glen; and Danny Roy Peters, 61, of Corinth, are charged with more than two dozen counts each, including fraudulently obtaining public funds.
Mitchell’s attorney, Tony Farese, said he had no comment about his client’s indictment. “It’s a process that is just beginning,” Farese said.
Attorneys for Nelms and Rhodes could not immediately be reached Wednesday. It was not immediately clear whether McNair and Peters have attorneys.
According Alcorn County jail records, the five men were arrested and released on bond. Nelms’ bond was $60,000, Rhodes’ was $30,000, Mitchell’s $20,000, and McNair and Peters each had $10,000 bond.
The men are scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 6 in Alcorn County Circuit Court, Pickering said. During arraignment, they would plead either guilty or not guilty to the charges.