3 sentenced in bribery scheme at GCCAA - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

3 sentenced in bribery scheme at GCCAA

Wednesday, a judge sentenced the three people charged in the Gulf Coast Community Action Agency scheme to jail time and ordered they pay the money back. (Photo source: WLOX) Wednesday, a judge sentenced the three people charged in the Gulf Coast Community Action Agency scheme to jail time and ordered they pay the money back. (Photo source: WLOX)
SOUTH MISSISSIPPI (WLOX) -

An elaborate scheme involving kickbacks and bribes cost South Mississippi taxpayers more than $500,000. Wednesday, a judge sentenced the three people charged in the Gulf Coast Community Action Agency scheme to jail time and ordered they pay the money back.

Before a judge sentenced former GCCAA Deputy Director Linda Harvey Irvin, her attorney, Robert Waller, tried to argue about the money paid to codefendant Markuntala Croom. Waller told the judge Croom did actually do some work for the agency and even presented documents Croom supposedly produced.

The government fired back and called a witness to the stand who testified those documents were actually written by others at the agency. In the end, Irvin's attempt to try and get a lesser fine ended in more time behind bars. The government said after the testimony Irvin didn't live up to part of the bargain "acceptance of responsibility," and therefore the sentencing guidelines should be stricter. The judge agreed.

Before a judge sentenced Irvin, he gave her the opportunity to talk. 

"I don't want to run the risk of infuriating the court, but there was a lot not presented and some things were not accurate or true," Irvin said. "I tried my best to bring GCCAA out of the deep hole it was in, and I did that." 

She told the judge because of the work she did, the agency passed a review in 2009 and was able to keep the agency open. Irvin said GCCAA is now able to "make sure for generations to come young children have a place to be educated." 

She said she should have had some protocols changed when she became deputy director.

"I wished to God I had. I never imagined in all my years I would have to say these things in here, but I'm dreadfully sorry about all of this. It breaks my heart," Irvin said. "I do have some understanding of how the train jumped the track. Jealousy and other things played a part in that, and I'm terribly sorry."

She placed some of the blame on the former director who was a close friend of hers and is now deceased. After her statement, the judge said she shifted blame on a deceased person, and he does not find what she said credible.

The judge told Irvin she was in a position of trust and allowed this "systematic ongoing scheme to divert money from the disadvantaged of the community to line the pockets of her friends and herself."

Irvin was sentenced to seven years and one month in prison. She and Croom have also been ordered to repay the $531,236 Croom earned during the conspiracy. After being released from prison, Irvin and Croom are also required to perform 100 hours of community service.

According to the government, Croom was paid $1,500 a day for her work, but when questions arose about her pay, Croom started giving half of it back to the agency for "in kind donations."

Prosecutors said Croom paid Irvin 78 payments of anywhere between $180 and $1,000. Investigators said there was an ongoing pattern of contracts and payments, alleging they were kickbacks so Irvin would keep awarding contracts for Croom to remain as a consultant for the agency. 

While Croom was working at GCCAA, the government said she also worked full time at Families First out of Jackson, noting Croom could not have fulfilled both duties. 

Croom's attorney told the court she accepts responsibility for her actions and wants to make amends. Croom was sentenced to three years and nine months behind bars for what the judge called "a crime against taxpayers."

Donald Walton was also sentenced Wednesday.

The government said 44 bids, equaling about $500,000 in construction work, were awarded by GCCAA to Walton, who was a contractor. According to agents, Walton submitted fake bids for phony companies and forged names in order for his bid to always be the lowest. Walton also made payments to Irvin.

Walton apologized to the court for his actions before he learned his fate.

"I'm a contractor, and work is hard to come by. I just got caught up in the deals. I'm sorry for everything I have caused," said Walton. 

While the judge said he understood it was challenging to get work with the economy, he said there are many who face the same challenge and never succumb to the temptations Walton did. 

Walton, the judge said "deprived taxpayers of money from what could have been lower bids."

He was sentenced to three years and one month in prison and two years of supervised release for converting to own use property of another. Two other counts against Walton were dropped.

Copyright 2015 WLOX. All rights reserved.

  • NEWSMore>>

  • Now: Traffic returns to normal on I-10 near Ocean Springs

    Now: Traffic returns to normal on I-10 near Ocean Springs

    Thursday, August 17 2017 9:11 AM EDT2017-08-17 13:11:44 GMT
    This is the scene on I-10 after a multi-vehicle wrec (Photo Source: MDOT)This is the scene on I-10 after a multi-vehicle wrec (Photo Source: MDOT)

    All lanes of Highway 90 are now open. A Mississippi Highway Patrol spokesman says an 18-wheeler crossed the median on Interstate 10 Thursday morning, causing a deadly series of accidents. It was just before 6:00 a.m. That truck was heading west near the Ocean Springs exit. Suddenly, it veered left, crossed the median and smashed into a motorcycle on the eastbound side of I-10. The MHP spokesman says that motorcycle driver died at the scene.

    More >>

    All lanes of Highway 90 are now open. A Mississippi Highway Patrol spokesman says an 18-wheeler crossed the median on Interstate 10 Thursday morning, causing a deadly series of accidents. It was just before 6:00 a.m. That truck was heading west near the Ocean Springs exit. Suddenly, it veered left, crossed the median and smashed into a motorcycle on the eastbound side of I-10. The MHP spokesman says that motorcycle driver died at the scene.

    More >>
  • Dangerous heat could lead to heat related illness

    Dangerous heat could lead to heat related illness

    Thursday, August 17 2017 8:03 AM EDT2017-08-17 12:03:27 GMT
    Dangerous heat expected across the Mississippi Gulf Coast on ThursdayDangerous heat expected across the Mississippi Gulf Coast on Thursday

    Thursday forecast temperatures are in the low to mid 90s. Not too unusual. But, the heat index will rise to dangerous levels for the first time this summer.

    More >>

    Thursday forecast temperatures are in the low to mid 90s. Not too unusual. But, the heat index will rise to dangerous levels for the first time this summer.

    More >>
  • WLOX Editorial: Louisiana flood solution, not a good deal for South Mississippi

    WLOX Editorial: Louisiana flood solution, not a good deal for South Mississippi

    Wednesday, August 16 2017 4:29 PM EDT2017-08-16 20:29:52 GMT

    We are not strangers to flooding on the Mississippi Coast. Nor are our neighbors to the west in Louisiana. There are forever ongoing efforts, planning and discussions about how to mitigate flooding. But a recent study by the Rand Corporation is more than a little disturbing.

    More >>

    We are not strangers to flooding on the Mississippi Coast. Nor are our neighbors to the west in Louisiana. There are forever ongoing efforts, planning and discussions about how to mitigate flooding. But a recent study by the Rand Corporation is more than a little disturbing.

    More >>
Powered by Frankly