Since I was appointed as the State Auditor in July 2018, my team and I have focused on chasing down fraud, theft, and embezzlement from taxpayers.
Since then, the State Auditor’s office has made great strides in identifying and holding accountable those who choose to break the law.
Thinking over the past several months, I’d like to update you on some of the cases that my investigators have been working on to help fight against theft in Northwest Mississippi.
In August, Special Agents arrested Carol Jackson, Executive Director of a nonprofit organization in Sunflower County, supposedly administering a Mississippi Department of Education (MDE) program meant to provide meals to needy schoolchildren during summer months.
She allegedly submitted fraudulent documents to MDE and stole over $40,000 from the program. She purportedly used program funds to write herself over $20,000 in checks in addition to withdrawing thousands of dollars from an ATM at a local casino and spending nearly $2,000 on personal travel.
Jackson is expected to go on trial in March 2022.
In Bolivar County, the Auditor’s office was alerted of potential fraud at a program run by the Mississippi Development Authority (MDA). We then investigated and arrested Ethel Cain for this scheme. Cain was indicted for fraud related to the MDA’s “Back to Business” grant
She is accused of using her Mound Bayou-based company, Lifeline Financial Freedom Solutions, to fraudulently submit grant applications on behalf of other businesses to obtain CARES Act stimulus funding.
The company is alleged to have submitted grant applications for the same companies multiple times. Cain’s company is also purported to have knowingly submitted grant applications for ineligible businesses.
Of the nearly $400,000 of potentially fraudulent grant applications submitted by Cain’s company, Special Agents identified $38,500 in
grant payments were actually made as a result of this purported fraud.
No trial date has been set in this case.
Taxpayers and voters should know: this was our first case involving the theft of stimulus funds, but it doesn’t have to be our last.
We will continue to watch these funds and to protect them on your behalf. This is a challenge, because the amount of stimulus spending these past two years has been massive.
But if there’s someone who wants to steal some of your money, we will be happy to make them our second stimulus criminal case.
In another case, we arrested Natasha Higdon, a former Mississippi Department of Health employee. Part of her job included traveling to Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Centers in Tallahatchie County.
Earlier this year, in February, she pleaded guilty to embezzlement and admitted to submitting fake travel reimbursement requests. My office has already recovered and returned full restitution — over $2,800 in this case—and given it back to taxpayers.
The work done by law enforcement and investigators in the auditor’s office is important, and I could not be more thankful for their efforts. Their role in my office is a vital part of protecting your tax dollars.
As long as I am your State Auditor, my team and I will work just as hard to protect your money as you did to earn the money in the first place.
Shad White is the 42nd State Auditor of Mississippi. His office can be reached by calling 601-576-2800. The Audit Department Hotline phone number is 1-800-321-1275