Former DMR Director Bill Walker avoids jail time for another 2 weeks
“Scott (Walker) was 1,000% in complete control of [his father’s] finances,” testified the probation officer.
GULFPORT, Miss. (WLOX) - Former Mississippi Department of Marine Resources Director Bill Walker back in federal court this week before Judge Keith Starrett for a revocation hearing.
In 2014, Walker pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the federal government and was ordered to pay restitution after his release in 2017. Court documents say Walker has not made restitution payments since February and was in danger of going back to prison.
Proceedings got underway Tuesday morning shortly after the prosecution and defense waived opening statements. The prosecution, led by attorney John Meynardie, called Justin Crowe, a 12-year veteran probation officer, to the stand. Crowe has been supervising Walker since his release.
Meynardie then presented multiple exhibits to be entered into evidence, many of which were financial statements completed in 2018 and a few weeks ago in September 2020. Initial statements showed that the income for Walker and his wife, prior to his sentencing in 2017, was in the neighborhood of $25,000 per month. Now, that number rests just below $17,000 per month.
Crowe testified that conversations with Walker regarding his restitution payments usually happened at Walker’s home with his wife and son Scott Walker present. Crowe was informed by the family that “Scott was 1,000% in complete control of the finances,” Crowe said from the witness stand.
Many times Crowe suggested to Bill Walker that a third-party should be brought in to handle the finances instead of Scott. Each time, Walker suggested that his son was capable of handling the finances.
When defense attorney Steven Eckert cross-examined Crowe, the line of questioning quickly changed to the mental health of Bill Walker and his wife, Sharon. While Crowe admitted to having no training in recognizing the signs of cognitive erosion, he did say that during many of the conversations regarding restitution payments, Bill Walker would sit quietly while Crowe and Scott Walker discussed the shortcomings and possible penalties associated with not paying.
“Dr. (Bill) Walker told me that Scott had been paying $1,000 each month,” said Crowe, referencing a specific meeting he had with the older Walker. When Crowe told him that this wasn’t the case, Bill Walker said “Let’s call Scott," said the probation officer. Even after the alleged discrepancy, Crowe said payments were still not made.
After a recess for lunch, Scott Walker was then called to the witness stand. During his initial questioning, the cross-examination, the re-direct, and questions from the judge, the younger Walker was made to recount, to the best of his ability, the money coming in and the money going out.
Meynadrie pointed out numerous discrepancies in the financial statements completed by Scott Walker in both 2018 and again in 2020. In these reports, a full report on inflow of money and outflow of money was clearly defined. Discrepancies in monthly payments on two maxed out credit cards were pointed out as well as an omission of a life insurance policy defined in 2018 that was not in 2020.
Also discussed were 11 personal loans taken out by Scott Walker, his father and his mother to help make restitution payments. These loans were taken out with companies like Rise, One Main Financial, and Tower Loans to name a few. The principal of the loans is currently at $106,032.88 with a monthly payment of more than $4,800 per month.
Scott Walker said that it hadn’t crossed his mind that the restitution payments should’ve take priority over the loan payments, especially since the two amounts were so close. “Things were going so well and we were doing so good,” he said.
For 15 months, payments were made on time. “When the coronavirus started, these lenders stopped lending,” testified the younger Walker.
Scott Walker said that the sale of his home is scheduled to close Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, and that the sale will allow him to fully pay off restitution payments in a case with Mike Janus and also restitution payments in the case with his father.
The hearing concluded when Judge Starrett weighed in on the matter. “Your dad is facing time in prison and it’s because his money is being misused and his fines aren’t being paid,” Starrett said.
Starrett ruled to appoint a guardian over Bill Walker’s money because of the damage done by his son. “It’s just the right thing to do,” Starrett said.
He then ruled that Scott Walker was to provide financial documents and records supporting the $16,000 in expenses his parents pay monthly. Walker has 10 days to provide these documents to the prosecution and defense.
Once this is done, Starrett said, he will set a date for the hearing to continue.
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