Archives For Mississippi

Ella Martin, 69, Jayess, Mississippi, pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal houses from the United States Department of Agriculture.

According to court documents, conspired with others to identify and steal USDA-mortgaged properties. The targeted properties were mortgaged through the Brookhaven office of USDA Rural Development, an agency which helps rural residents buy or rent safe, affordable housing, especially low and very-low income individuals. As an employee of that office, Martin had access to a list of abandoned, foreclosed, nearly-foreclosed, or similarly distressed USDA-mortgaged properties and would create fraudulent warranty deeds designed to convey ownership of those properties to co-conspirators and others. The fraudulent deeds included forged signatures from former homeowners, including at least one deceased individual. The fraudulent deeds were then filed in Chancery Courts around Mississippi with the intent to deprive the actual owners of the use and benefit of the properties and to deprive the United States Government of the actual value of the properties.

Martin pleaded guilty to a violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 371, which criminalizes conspiracies against the laws of the United States. She is scheduled to be sentenced on September 19, 2023 and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. A federal district judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Co-defendants Barry Martin and Fiesta Kagler entered guilty pleas last year and are scheduled to be sentenced on June 15, 2023.

The USDA OIG and the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated the case.

U.S. Attorney Darren J. LaMarca and Special Agent in Charge Dax Roberson of United States Department of Agriculture, Office of the Inspector General made the announcement.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly T. Purdie is prosecuting the case.


Christopher Vaughan and Jon Gregg Goodhart Jr. were each sentenced today for their role in a conspiracy to rig bids, in violation of the U.S. antitrust laws, at public real estate foreclosure auctions in Southern Mississippi.

Vaughan and Goodhart Jr., were sentenced to serve four months in prison, with Vaughan receiving a fine of $20,000. Both defendants were ordered to pay restitution. Separately, but as a result of the same investigation, Jason Boykin, Shannon Boykin, Kimberly Foster, Kevin Moore, Chad Nichols, Ivan Spinner, and Terry Tolar were each sentenced to a term of four months in prison on January 17, 2019, and were ordered to pay fines ranging from $20,000 to $48,000 and restitution to victims of their crimes.

At various times between 2009 and 2017, according to court documents, these defendants and others conspired not to bid against each other for properties sold at public real estate foreclosure auctions.  Instead, they designated a winning bidder for the property and made and received payoffs in exchange for their agreement not to bid.  When properties are sold at these auctions, the proceeds are used to pay off the mortgage and other debt attached to the property, with any remaining proceeds paid to the homeowner.  These conspirators paid and received money in connection with their agreement to suppress competition, which artificially lowered the price paid at auction for such homes.

The Department of Justice made the announcement.

Those who subvert the competitive process will be held accountable and violations of the nation’s antitrust laws will be taken seriously,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division.  “The Division has prosecuted more than 100 individuals across the country for bid rigging at real estate foreclosure auctions, and we will continue our efforts to prosecute and deter this conduct.”

These types of crimes affect all Americans, because when individuals rig bids at auction, it ultimately damages our economy and hurts individuals,” said Christopher Freeze, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Mississippi. “We want to send a clear message to those participating in this type of corruption: the FBI and Department of Justice will investigate and prosecute anyone betraying the trust of our country’s economic foundation.”

There is a simple lesson from these cases – if you rig bids, you will be caught and you will be punished.  These are not victimless crimes, as we all suffer when people violate our antitrust laws.  I want to thank the FBI and the Antitrust Division for rooting out this corruption in our foreclosure auctions here in Mississippi. We will remain vigilant against these and other types of crimes as we move forward in protecting the public,” said United States Attorney Mike Hurst for the Southern District of Mississippi.

The sentences announced today resulted from an ongoing investigation being conducted by the Antitrust Division’s Washington Criminal II Section and the FBI’s Gulfport Resident Agency, with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi.  Anyone with information concerning bid rigging or fraud related to real estate foreclosure auctions should contact the Antitrust Division prosecutors in the Washington Criminal II Section at 202-598-4000, or visit


William D. “Butch” Dickson, 58, Jackson, Mississippi, was indicted by a federal grand jury on April 8, 2014, on six counts of bankruptcy fraud, six counts of bank fraud, and five counts of wire fraud for relocated his businesses to Panama and Costa Rica and instructing his customers to submit their monthly mortgage payments to addresses in Las Vegas, Nevada, and Miami, Florida.

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Stephen Richard Colson, 48, Biloxi, Mississippi, pled guilty in federal court on March 19, 2014, to falsifying, concealing, and covering up material facts in connection with a scheme to defraud two banks and the Bankruptcy Court in violation of Title 18 Section 1001.

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Mayor Eldridge Walker is facing charges following indictment by a Sharkey County, Mississippi, Grand Jury for his alleged role in submitting false documents to Federal Home Loan Bank.

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Michael E. Earwood, 61, Madison, Mississippi, an attorney, was sentenced in U.S. District Court to 46 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, for bankruptcy fraud.

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