TUNICA COUNTY, Miss. — A former Tunica County Housing Project Director has been arrested on counts of fraud and embezzlement.
Mardis Jones was arrested after he was indicted for fraud and embezzling public money in Tunica County, according to a release from State Auditor Shad White.
“He drew down over seven hundred thousand dollars in administrative fees just to run the program in addition to that he embezzled over 765,000. You add that up and that is about eight percent of the program. Only 19 percent of the program’s expenditures actually made it to rehabilitation projects to fix things on people’s homes.” White said.
A $1,081,143.07 demand letter was issued to Jones upon his arrest.
The amount represents the second-largest demand in a criminal case in the history of the Auditor’s office.
It includes both interest and investigative expenses, according to the release.
We asked the state auditor who should have been watching where the money was going.
“Ultimately the money is being spent by the Tunica County Board of Supervisors and they were giving that money in turn to a housing authority who would then engage a deal with this Tunica County Housing Incorporated Mr. Jones,” White said.
Jones was Executive Director of Tunica County Housing Incorporated, an organization that helps rehabilitate dilapidated homes owned by low-income residents.
The program is funded by the Tunica County Board of Supervisors.
Attorney John Keith Perry represents the Tunica County Board of Supervisors. He said the board terminated its relationship with Jones and the program months before the investigation began.
Perry said the board asked the tough questions it was supposed to ask and that it would be unusual in this case for a Supervisor to go to a home site to check to see if the work was being done.
FOX13 has reached out to Jones’s attorney about the case but so far we have not heard back.
From the release:
The county called for Jones to take applications from local homeowners and connect them with contractors for home repairs. Jones then submitted funding requests to the Board of Supervisors to pay the contractors.
Instead of making all the required payments to the contractors, though, Jones is accused of embezzling from the program. Investigators determined less than 20% of the nearly $2 million transferred to TCHI was actually paid to contractors for rehabilitation work on homes. Jones allegedly embezzled over $750,000 from the program.
The Auditor’s office began an investigation when a complaint was submitted by the Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review (PEER). After Jones and the program were highlighted in national news stories, PEER conducted a study to measure the program’s success. PEER analysts noticed strange money transfers initiated by Jones and reported them to the Auditor’s office.
Jones surrendered to Special Agents at the Tunica County Jail. His bond was set at $50,000.
If convicted, Jones faces up to 40 years in prison and $45,000 in fines.