The former executive director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources, Bill Walker, his son Scott Walker and three others are expected to appear today in U.S. District Court after being indicted on charges that include conspiracy to defraud the federal government.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and U.S. Attorney's Office announced the indictments after five DMR employees turned themselves in Thursday morning at the Harrison County jail on state embezzlement charges leveled by Auditor Stacey Pickering.
Federal and state authorities have been investigating the DMR under Bill Walker's management for more than a year. Walker was fired in January. In fact, all seven DMR employees facing federal and state charges have left the agency.
The Sun Herald has reported on most of the activities that led to the federal charges, plus other alleged mismanagement that was not included in Thursday's indictments.
Bill Walker, Scott Walker and Tina Shumate, former DMR coastal management and planning director, face charges related to the purchase of Scott Walker's property with $210,000 provided by the DMR.
The five-count indictment also alleges Bill Walker diverted money intended for state programs into his private Mississippi Marine Resources Foundation. Walker created the foundation in 2004, about two years after he was appointed to head the state DMR.
Walker, his son and former DMR chief of staff Joe Ziegler, the indictment says, then conspired between 2006 and July to enrich themselves or others with foundation money.
A separate six-count indictment charges Scott Walker and former D'Iberville City Manager Michael Janus with fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, bribery and money laundering.
Scott Walker is accused of bribing Janus in 2011, while he was city manager, in exchange for a $180,000 contract awarded to Scott Walker's firm. They are accused of laundering $80,000 of the contract amount through a bank account in the name of a company they owned together, JaWa Investments LLC.
Attorneys for Scott Walker and Janus declined to comment on the charges. Bill Walker's and Ziegler's attorneys could not be reached to comment.
Shumate's attorney, Tim Holleman of Gulfport, said, "She didn't steal anything and she didn't get any money."
The indictment says the Walkers and Ziegler conspired to commit mail fraud and stole money intended for the state by diverting it to Bill Walker's foundation.
In 2006, according to the federal charges, Bill Walker and Ziegler should have given the state $200,000 from the Southern Shrimp Alliance. Instead, the indictment says, the check was made out to the foundation. Six days later, according to the indictment, Bill Walker bought a $180,000 certificate of deposit in the foundation's name.
In 2009, Walker is accused of accepting the donation of an oil rig from Chevron USA on behalf of the state DMR for the Rigs To Reefs Program. The indictment says he had a $115,162 check from Walter Oil & Gas for rig maintenance made out to his foundation.
The indictment outlines numerous ways the foundation money personally benefited the Walkers.
In March 2010, the indictment says, Bill Walker sent a check from his foundation to American Express for $6,671. The same month, Scott Walker signed for delivery of furniture to his Ocean Springs home, according to the charges.
In July, the indictment says, Bill Walker wrote a foundation check for $13,981 to a law firm.
DMR buys Walker land
Other fraud, theft and conspiracy to commit fraud charges revolve around a 2011 land transaction.
Shumate is accused of transferring $210,000 from DMR accounts to the Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain to buy a lot from Bill Walker and Scott Walker.
The waterfront lot of about an acre in Gulf Hills was owned by Scott Walker, but the indictment says Bill Walker also had a financial interest in it.
Scott Walker bought the lot in 2008 and used it as security on a $310,000 loan with a final balloon payment due in July 2011.
Judy Steckler, Land Trust executive director, said Shumate approached her in spring 2011 about buying the lot. Shumate, a Land Trust board member, said the DMR had funding for the purchase.
On June 3, 2011, the Land Trust board voted to buy it.
On June 10, 2011, Bill Walker, on behalf of the DMR, signed a grant worksheet agreeing to supply $210,000 -- $100,000 in federal Heritage money and $110,000 in DMR money -- to buy the land "for the development of green space, trails and restoration."
On July 13, 2011, Scott Walker deeded the property to the Land Trust. The next day, Merchants & Marine Bank released the deed, acknowledging Scott Walker's debt was paid.
The indictment alleges Janus and Scott Walker conspired in 2011 to submit a false invoice from Scott Walker's Maxwell-Walker Consulting to the city of D'Iberville in order to steal $180,000.
The money was purportedly paid to the firm for landing a $3 million BP grant from the Department of Environmental Quality. BP has paid billions to clean up and repair damage after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster.
The grant was supposed to help pay for infrastructure at the site of the Institute for Marine Mammal Studies Ocean Expo aquarium.
The indictment accuses the pair of executing a consulting agreement between the city and Maxwell-Walker Consulting after fake invoices were sent to the city. Maxwell-Walker also was acting as a consultant for IMMS.
Janus later told the City Council he had forgotten to seek its approval for the consulting agreement with Scott Walker's firm.
The indictment further accuses Walker of bribing Janus with at least $10,000 in exchange for the consulting agreement and accuses Janus of accepting the bribes.
Two money-laundering charges involve two checks of $40,000 each written in December 2011 from the checking account of JaWa Investments LLC. The money, the indictment says, came from Scott Walker's consulting agreement.
The DEQ has since demanded D'Iberville repay $1.4 million of the BP grant, but the city has yet to do so. The DEQ halted work on infrastructure for IMMS.