JACKSON, Miss. (WDAM) – A Jones County road foreman and two other men were arrested in an embezzlement and fraud investigation conducted by the State Auditor’s office.
State Auditor Shad White announced Monday that special agents arrested Jones County District 5 road foreman Roland Graham and Larry Barnes.
A grand jury assembled by District Attorney Anthony Buckley indicted both men on charges of conspiracy to defraud the state, and Graham was also indicted for fraud or embezzlement.
A total of $14,442.18 in demand letters was delivered during the arrests. The total includes interest and the cost of the investigation.
Graham and Barnes are accused of entering into a private contract with private landowners to use county equipment to break down and remove debris for payment to the two men, which resulted in a financial loss to the county.
Special Agents also arrest Esau Moffett after he was indicted for hindering prosecution after allegedly joining in on the private contract from Graham and Barnes to tear down a private residence.
According to the State Auditor’s office, Moffett purposefully provided false information during the investigation to mislead agents and alerted Barnes afterward to let them know agents were attempting to identify and find him.
All three men were arrested in different parts of the Pine Belt. Graham was arrested at the Beat 5 work barn in Jones County, Barnes was arrested in Covington County and Moffett surrendered to authorities in Forrest County.
Officers from all three counties assisted in the arrests.
The men were arraigned at the Jones County Courthouse in Laurel where bond amounts were set for them.
Graham’s bond is set at $15,000 and a $5,000 bond was set for both Barnes and Moffett.
“Taxpayer resources are supposed to be used for the benefit of the taxpayers as a whole, not for the personal benefit of a politician or a government employee. To use equipment owned by the taxpayers for your personal benefit is the same as stealing, and we take these crimes just as seriously as if someone stole from the bank,” said White. “I’m thankful for the hard work of our investigators for putting a stop to this. Every government employee thinking about committing this kind of fraud should be on notice that we’re watching.”
Graham and Moffett could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted, with Barnes possibly facing five years.
Suspected fraud can be reported to the Auditor’s office online by clicking the red button at www.osa.ms.gov or by telephone during regular business hours at 1 (800) 321-1275.