Fraud, perjury, extortion among the charges Mike Byrd is facing

mbbaker@sunherald.comAugust 30, 2013 

JACKSON COUNTY -- Sheriff Mike Byrd's indictment lists 10 counts each of embezzlement and fraud, one charge of perjury, and two counts each of second-degree hindering prosecution, tampering with a witness, attempted subornation of perjury, intimidating an officer in the discharge of his duties, and extortion.

Here's a look at the details:

Count 1: Embezzlement. On or about June 14, 2011, Byrd in his official capacity as sheriff is accused of converting to his own use $253 by ordering agents with the Narcotics Task Force of Jackson County to use their time and county vehicles to conduct surveillance on employees of El Saltillo Mexican Restaurant in Ocean Springs in retaliation for the restaurant's refusal to accept a check from Byrd. He allegedly ordered the deputies to do surveillance on the employees though there was no real suspicion of a crime.

Count 2: Fraud. On or about June 14, 2011, Byrd is accused of defrauding Jackson County by ordering two agents with the Narcotics Task Force of Jackson County to conduct surveillance on employees of El Saltillo Mexican Restaurant in retaliation after the restaurant employees refused to accept a check from Byrd after his political campaign dinner. The alleged fraud caused Jackson County to pay employees an estimated $253 to cover their time and use of county vehicles.

Count 3: Embezzlement. Byrd between April 14, 2011, and April 15, 2011, while acting as sheriff is accused of ordering three agents with the Narcotics Task Force of Jackson County to conduct surveillance on John Curry, an opponent to a proposal to construct a hotel in downtown Ocean Springs. Byrd is accused of embezzling an estimated $2,605 because the county paid the two employees for their time and the use of their county vehicles to perform the alleged retaliatory task.

Count 4: Fraud. Byrd between April 14, 2011, and April 15, 2011, while acting as sheriff caused to be paid to deputies $2,605 in county funds for the use of three agents of the Narcotics Task Force of Jackson to conduct surveillance on John Curry in retaliation for Curry's opposition to proposed hotel in downtown Ocean Springs.

Count 5: Embezzlement. On or about Sept. 4, 2012, Byrd is accused of embezzling an estimated $195 in county funds for time worked and the use of county property based on an order from Byrd to two agents with the Narcotics Task Force of Jackson County to conduct surveillance on Ocean Springs Alderman Matt McDonnell for political or personal gain.

Count 6: Fraud. Byrd is accused on Sept. 4, 2012, of ordering two agents with the Narcotics Task Force of Jackson County to conduct surveillance on Ocean Springs Alderman Matt McDonnell for political or personal gain.

Count 7: Embezzlement. Byrd is accused, between Oct. 6, 2012, and Oct. 7, 2012, of converting to his own use an estimated $412 for the use of an agent with the Narcotics Task Force of Jackson County to conduct surveillance on Moss Point Police Chief Keith Davis in retaliation for Davis embarrassing Byrd after bringing to light information on the shooting that had gone unreported.

Count 8: Fraud. Byrd is accused between Oct. 6, 2012, and Oct. 7, 2012, of defrauding Jackson County out of an estimated $412 in employee time and services after ordering an agent with the Narcotics Task Force of Jackson County to conduct surveillance on Moss Point Police Chief Keith Davis in retaliation over Davis bringing information on a July 31, 2012, shooting at the task force office to light and embarrassing the sheriff.

Count 9: Embezzlement. Byrd is accused between Feb. 1, 2012, and April 21, 2012, of embezzling $2,976 in employee time and services after ordering Deputy Valerie Damazio to solicit and collect money for and work at the 14th annual Bass Tournament, a nonprofit governmental event whose proceeds go into the Jackson County Sheriff's Benefit Bank Account. At the time, Damazio was being paid for her time and using county property to perform the job.

Count 10: Fraud. Byrd is accused of defrauding Jackson County by unlawfully ordering Sheriff's Deputy Valerie Damazio between Feb. 1, 2012, and April 21, 2012, to solicit and collect money for and work at the 14th annual Bass Tournament, a non-governmental event whose proceeds benefit the Jackson County Sheriff's Benefit bank account. Her time and services were estimated at a cost to Jackson County of $2,976.

Count 11: Embezzlement. Between Feb. 1 and April 20, Byrd is converting to his own use an estimated $2,724 in county funds to his own use after ordering Deputy Damazio to solicit and collect money using her employee time and vehicle for the 15th annual Benefit Bass Tournament, a non-governmental event whose proceeds benefit the Jackson County Sheriff's Benefit bank account.

Count 12: Fraud. Between Feb. 1 and April 20, Byrd is accused of committing fraud when he ordered Deputy Damazio to use an estimated $2,724 in employee time and vehicles to solicit money for the 15th annual Bass Tournament, a non-governmental event whose proceeds go to the Jackson County Sheriff's Benefit bank account.

Count 13: Embezzlement. Byrd is accused between Sept. 1, 2012, and Nov. 16, 2012, of covering to his own use an estimated $2,632 in county funds after ordering Deputy Damazio to spend her employee time and equipment to solicit funds for the 11th annual Sheriff's Gospel Sing, a non-governmental event, though Damazio was being paid through the county for her services as a deputy at the time.

Count 14: Fraud. Byrd is accused of committing fraud valued at $2,632 in county funds after unlawfully ordering Deputy Damazio to spend her time and county resources to solicit funds for the 11th annual Benefit Bass Tournament, the proceeds of which go into the Jackson County Sheriff's Benefit bank account.

Count 15: Embezzlement. Byrd is accused between Sept. 11, 2012, and Nov. 16, 2012, or embezzling an estimated $4,896 in county services and employee time after he ordered his public information official, Cherie Ward, to spend her time soliciting and collecting money for the 11th annual Sheriff's Gospel Sing.

Count 16: Fraud. Byrd is accused of committing fraud of an employee's time and services valued at $4,896, when he ordered his public information official, Cherie Ward, to spend her time soliciting and collecting money for the 11th annual Sheriff's Gospel Sing.

Count 17: Embezzlement. Byrd is accused between Sept. 1, 2012, and Nov. 16, 2012, of covering to his own use an estimated $2,488 in county employee pay and services after ordering his employee, Connie Bosarge, to solicit and collect money for the 11th annual Sheriff's Gospel Sing, a non-governmental group.

Count 18: Fraud. Byrd is accused between Sept. 1, 2012, and Nov. 16, 2012, of committing fraud in the amount of $2,488 in county funds and services after ordering his employee, Connie Bosarge, to spend her time soliciting and collecting money for the 11th annual Sheriff's Gospel Sing, a non-governmental event.

Count 19: Embezzlement. Byrd is accused on Nov. 17, 2012, of converting $439 in county funds used to pay for employees' time and use of county vehicles after ordering his employees Damazio, Ward and Bosarge to work at the 11th annual Sheriff's Gospel Sing, a non-governmental event.

Count 20: Fraud. Byrd is accused of fraud by unlawfully ordering employees Damazio, Ward and Bosarge to work at the 11th annual Sheriff's Gospel Sing.

Count 21: Second-degree hindering prosecution. Byrd is accused of hindering the prosecution of Jackie Trussell, former commander of the Narcotics Task Force of Jackson, for his involvement in a July 31, 2012, shooting that went unreported. Specifically, he's accused of concealing information about the shooting.

Count 22: Second-degree hindering prosecution. Byrd is accused of trying to hinder the prosecution of Jackie Trussell after he was involved at a shooting at the Narcotics Task Force of Jackson County by deceiving task force board members about what actually happened. Trussell was eventually indicted, pleaded guilty and resigned.

Count 23: Tampering with a witness. Byrd is accused of attempting to induce Deputy Chad Powell to lie to a grand jury and tell them he was struck by a concrete fragment during the shooting at the Narcotics Task Force of Jackson County, though Powell was actually struck by a bullet.

Count 24: Perjury. Byrd is accused of lying to a grand jury on Nov. 13, 2012, when he told them no one had attempted to hide the fact that a shooting occurred at the Narcotics Task Force of Jackson County.

Count 25: Attempted subornation of perjury. Byrd is accused on Oct. 31, 2012, of telling Ocean Springs Police Chief Lionel Cothern to tell City Clerk Shelly Ferguson to lie before a grand jury and say former Ocean Springs Alderman James Hagan, who had been arrested on a charge accusing him of embezzling a city computer, had no right to possess the laptop, the property of Ocean Springs. Byrd knew, the indictment said, that Hagan was in lawful possession of the laptop.

Count 26: Attempting subornation of perjury. Byrd is accused on Oct. 31, 2012, of telling Ocean Springs Deputy Chief Mark Dunston to tell City Clerk Shelly Ferguson to lie to a grand jury and say Hagan had no legal right to possess a city-owned laptop.

Count 27: Intimidating an officer in the discharge of his duties. Byrd is accused of ordering Deputy Arryn Hall to cease his duties and refrain from collecting information from the occupants of a vehicle involved in an accident with Deputy Hope Thornton.

Count 28: Byrd is accused between July 31, 2012, and Aug. 13, 2013 of waiving any payment to the Rusty Seaman of the Pascagoula Service despite him doing work on the sheriff's personal lawnmower.

Count 29: Extortion. Byrd is accused of an attempt to obtain sexual favors from a deputy by describing a certain act to the deputy that he wanted to perform on her, touching her body without consent, threatening demotion and threatening to give her a bad recommendation for future employment at another agency if she left. He further, the indictment says, punished the female deputy after she refused the advances by taking away her responsibilities and moving her to another location.

Count 30: Tampering with a witness. Byrd is accused of attempting to induce Detective Ken McClenic to under false pretenses withhold testimony from Judge Sharon Sigalis in order for McClenic to obtain from the judge an arrest warrant and affidavit for an arrest in a murder case.

Count 31: Intimidating an officer in the discharge of his duties. Byrd is accused on June 14, 2007, of ordering Detective McClenic to sign an affidavit and obtain an arrest warrant for Robert McKee for the crime of murder, though McClenic told Byrd at the time he did not feel McKee had committed the crime. The sheriff allegedly wanted the arrest made because he was in the midst of a political campaign and wanted to be able to say he had no unsolved murders.

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