After two weeks in jail, former Department of Marine Resources chief Bill Walker said he has learned his lesson and will make his monthly court-ordered repayments to taxpayers — even if it means selling the Ocean Springs house where he and wife Sharon have lived for more than 40 years.
U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett sent Walker to the Harrison County jail Sept. 19 for falling $45,000 behind on restitution he was ordered to pay when convicted in 2014 of conspiracy to defraud the government. Walker must repay taxpayers a total of $572,689.
Walker and his wife have a combined retirement income of $190,000 annually, which does not include the 13th checks both receive from the state each year as cost of living increases.
Walker was supposed to be paying the government $5,000 a month toward his restitution total, but had paid only about $10,000 when he was hauled into court two weeks ago. Starrett found then that Walker could be making his payments if he curbed his lifestyle.
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Starrett could have returned Walker to prison Monday to serve the last two years of his five-year sentence, but instead, at the end of a short hearing, released him after time served.
During the hearing, Walker said he was working to cut expenses and promised to make his ordered payments. He also owes $125,000 in fines.
The Walkers will sell his wife’s Mercedes Benz and a Land Rover that their son, Scott Walker, was driving.
Scott Walker was also convicted in the public-corruption case but is making his monthly restitution payments of $750, court records show. He made an additional lump-sum payment on a portion of the restitution that he and his father jointly owe when he sold his beachfront home in Ocean Springs.
Bill Walker also will either refinance or sell his home to reduce his monthly expenses.
Starrett said Walker must pay an additional $1,000 a month on the back payments he owes unless what he clears from a refinancing or sale covers the entire amount. The Walker’s house is valued at between $400,000 and $700,000. Walker must secure a new appraisal for refinancing or sale.
Walker’s court-appointed attorney, John Weber, said it has been a rough couple of weeks for the former DMR head, who misspent a total of more than $1.8 million during the 11 years he oversaw the agency.
After Starrett set Walker free, Scott Walker told the Sun Herald: “It’s a lot of money, but Dad being home with us is worth that and much more.”