Crime

Walkers still owe most of their fines, restitution in DMR scandal

Former Mississippi Department of Marine Resources Director Bill Walker and his wife, Sharon, leave the federal courthouse in Hattiesburg on June 16, 2014, after Bill was sentenced for five years in prison on charges of conspiring to defraud the government. At right is Walker’s son, Scott.
Former Mississippi Department of Marine Resources Director Bill Walker and his wife, Sharon, leave the federal courthouse in Hattiesburg on June 16, 2014, after Bill was sentenced for five years in prison on charges of conspiring to defraud the government. At right is Walker’s son, Scott. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com File

The former director of the Department of Marine Resources paid just $221.62 in the 2017 fiscal year that just ended to settle a $362,689 demand in 2014 by the State Auditor’s Office for fines and restitution for embezzlement from the agency, according to an annual report from the auditor.

Bill Walker is serving the remainder of his federal prison term under house arrest at his home in Ocean Springs. His son, Scott Walker, said his father will be released from federal custody in November. He was sentenced to five years in prison in 2014 for his role in a conspiracy to defraud the government out of hundreds of thousands of dollars by using government money to buy a lot owned by his son.

Scott Walker pleaded guilty in that case and another scheme with former D’Iberville city manager Michael Janus. Both he and Janus received federal prison sentences and were released in 2016.

Scott Walker said he is paying $1,500 a month to the federal court in Gulfport to settle about $300,000 in restitution in the two cases. Auditor’s Office spokesman Logan Reeves said Walker’s payments aren’t in the report because he is making them to federal court. He said of the $210,000 owed by the two Walkers, $12,443.41 has been repayed, leaving $197,556.59 remaining.

Bill Walker’s former chief of staff Joe Zielger paid $22,318.90 of the $258,268 demand against him, leaving $217,962 to be paid. Kerwin Cuevas, the former director of the DMR’s artificial reef program, paid $10,318.90 of his $108,420 demand, leaving him with a balance of $96,734.

Other Coast cases in the exceptions report:

Gulf Coast Community Action Agency

Former Deputy Director Linda Harvey-Irvin of Jackson owes the entire share of the $531,236 she and a vendor were ordered to pay in restitution to the federal government. She was sentenced to more than seven years in federal prison after pleading guilty to bribery in 2015. Her release date is Oct. 25, 2021.

Action Agency vendor Markuntala Croom of Columbia hasn’t paid any of her share either. She was sentenced to almost five years in prison and her release date in Sept. 29, 2019.

Vender Donald Walton of Vicksburg still owes the $31,000 he was ordered to pay in his bribery case. He was sentenced to more than three years in prison and was released in May.

GCCAA has since closed.

Waveland

Former employee Rhonda Aubert has paid the OSA’s $4,452.23 demand.

Gulfport School District

Former Business Manager George Trigg paid the OSA’s $50,000 demand for misappropriation of funds.

Contractor Louis O’Bannon paid $5,000 of the OSA’s $50,000 demand for misappropriation of funds.

Paul Hampton: 228-284-7296, @JPaulHampton

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