Alcorn County, MS, supervisor and others charged in alleged corruption scheme

RUSTIN’: This bulldozer without an engine was rented to Alcorn County as part of an alleged corruption scheme by county supervisor “Dal” Nelms and others.

By Steve Wilson | Mississippi Watchdog

An alleged corruption scheme involving a county supervisor in Mississippi’s Alcorn County has it all: straw vendors, a county-rented bulldozer rusting in a field, false invoices and purchases on the county’s Lowe’s account.

District 2 supervisor Jimmy Dallan “Dal” Nelms is accused of employing an ingenious scheme to embezzle thousands of tax dollars, according to an 259-count indictment issued Wednesday.

The Alcorn County supervisor is accused of creating an embezzlement scheme by purchasing heavy equipment from county vendors with taxpayer funds and receiving payments from the vendors in exchange for the purchases.

ARRESTED: Alcorn County supervisor “Dal” Nelms was arrested on multiple charges of corruption Wednesday.

Nelms was arrested on 156 counts of embezzlement by a public official, making false representation to defraud the government, fraudulently obtaining public funds, forgery and conspiracy, after an investigation by State Auditor Stacey Pickering’s office.

County purchase clerk William Paul Rhodes and county vendors Jimmy Ray Mitchell, Joseph Lin McNair Jr. and Danny Roy Peters were arrested in the alleged scheme.

Pickering said his office is expanding its investigation into the county’s government.

“I don’t think the citizens of Alcorn County are just concerned, but I think they are likely incensed and angry to see this kind of mismanagement, but also embezzlement and fraud,” Pickering said. “This does not end this investigation. We’ve expanded the investigation to include the sheriff’s office and even the operations of the county jail.”

Nelms’ alleged corruption didn’t end at payments for purchases from vendors. According to the indictment, he’s accused of:

  • Using county funds to pay for fraudulent invoices for work that was never done.
  • Renting equipment with county funds that was never rented.
  • Utilizing mock straw bidders to increase the purchase price of equipment bought for the county.
  • Having fraudulent bidders sell his personal property to the county.
  • Intercepting checks meant for vendors, forging the signatures and cashing the checks.
  • Using a county-owned truck to tow his boat to and from Arkansas.
  • Buying items for his home on the county’s Lowe’s account.
  • Using county funds to pay for his wife’s cell phone and its monthly bill.

Nelms was hit with a civil demand by the auditor for $308,244.71.

Pickering said some of the conspirators went to Tennessee to buy equipment such as backhoes and a heavy truck and sold it to the county at a heavy markup, making “$10,000 to $12,000 profit on each purchase and they’d pocket that difference.”

“They even rented a bulldozer that didn’t have an engine in it and had weeds growing up around it,” Pickering said.

Rhodes, the county purchase clerk, was charged on 13 counts; he was charged in July with obstruction of justice.

Photo by the Office of the State Auditor

BOOKED: Alcorn County purchase clerk William Paul Rhodes was arrested in connection with an alleged corruption scheme with county supervisor “Dal” Nelms.

He is accused of conspiracy to commit embezzlement, making false representations to defraud the government and hindering prosecution in the first degree. According to the indictment, he allegedly used his position to help circumvent the bidding process and created dumpsites with other conspirators to hamper the investigation. He received a demand for $77,509.94.

Pickering said his investigators were using office space at the Alcorn County Board of Supervisors when Rhodes allegedly photographed their classified investigation notes and sent them to Nelms.

McNair (31 counts of fraud and conspiracy to commit embezzlement) and Peters (27 counts of fraud and conspiracy) were accused of allowing Nelms to submit false invoices in their names and receiving a proportion of the proceeds.

McNair is also accused of allowing Nelms to use his business to sell personal items to the county and pocketing some of the proceeds.

Mitchell was charged with 32 counts of fraud and conspiracy to commit embezzlement. He is accused of participating in the sale of non-existent culverts and fraudulent heavy equipment purchases.

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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