Auditor still mum on DMR case, but restitution dollars trickling in

calee@sunherald.comJune 28, 2014 

TIM ISBELL/SUN HERALD/2013Chancery Court Judge Jennifer Schloegel listens as State Auditor Stacey Pickering answers questions of Gulf Publishing attorney Henry Laird during Pickering's contempt hearing in Gulfport.

TIM ISBELL — SUN HERALD Buy Photo

BILOXI -- State Auditor Stacey Pickering has collected at least 3 percent of the money he demanded in November from former employees of the state Department of Marine Resources, his office and court records indicate.

Pickering demanded a total of $1.2 million in restitution from 10 former employees. His office would not discuss the fine repayments, citing criminal charges filed in federal or state court against seven of the 10. Pickering issued civil demands for restitution against three others.

His office, which would communicate with the Sun Herald only by email, indicated restitution was received in one of the three civil cases.

A civil demand deals with the negligent handling of money, and criminal restitution is an actual punishment imposed as part of a case involving criminal intent, said Crosby Parker, an assistant district attorney who is helping prosecute the DMR cases filed in state court.

Three former employees charged in state cases -- Leslie Gollott, Grant Larsen and Susan Perkins -- paid restitution after entering guilty pleas in May, court records show. All three worked in DMR's Office of Coastal Resource Management and Planning under its then-director, Tina Shumate.

The highest amounts of restitution were demanded from Shumate, former DMR Director Bill Walk

er and former Chief of Staff Joe Ziegler. All three were charged with federal crimes of conspiracy and fraud. Only Walker and his son, private consultant Scott Walker, have pleaded guilty in the DMR case -- to one count each of conspiracy.

Ziegler and Shumate both maintain their innocence and are scheduled for federal trial on conspiracy and fraud charges. Shumate also is set for trial on state embezzlement charges.

Court records and the auditor's written response reveal the following about restitution in the cases.

n Bill Walker must pay $572,689.14. The amount paid, if any, is not included in the public file in federal court, but records do say after he finishes a five-year prison sentence, Walker must pay $5,000 a month until restitution is complete.

n The auditor has demanded $258,269 from Ziegler, whose federal trial is set for Aug. 11

n The auditor has demanded $127,609 from Shumate, whose federal trial is set for Sept. 22 and state trial for October.

n Kerwin Cuevas, who directed DMR's artificial reef program, is set for trial Aug. 14 in state court on embezzlement charges, with a restitution demand of $108,421.

According to Circuit Court records:

n Former program manager Gollott paid $32,605, with $501 still owed, after he pleaded guilty to embezzlement.

n Former marine technician Larsen owed and paid $1,342 after he pleaded guilty to false pretense.

n Former public relations officer Perkins owed and paid $2,504 after she pleaded guilty to false pretense.

According to the auditor's office:

n Former DMR Patrol Chief Walker "Tiny" Chataginer owed and paid civil restitution of $1,280.

n Former Marine Technician Kerry Endris owes civil restitution of $13,021.

n Former videographer Samantha Hebert owes civil restitution of $4,726.

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