MOSS POINT, Miss. (WLOX) - The Moss Point Board of Aldermen is calling for Mayor Mario King to immediately step down as he finalizes his plea agreement on federal charges.
Friday, the board held a special call meeting after court papers were filed this week announcing Mayor King’s intent to plead guilty. King and his wife, Natasha, face 13 federal charges of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government. The notices filed this week do not indicate which charge Mario and Natasha King will plead guilty to, only indicating that each intend to plead to a single federal charge.
In the statement released Friday, members of the Board of Aldermen stated, “It is unfortunate that the law did not allow the Board to place the Mayor on administrative leave during this time so that City business would not be disrupted with the ongoing criminal allegations. However, the Board recognizes, understands, and appreciates that we are all innocent until proven guilty. With this week’s announcement, it appears that the mayor intends to plead ‘guilty’ to at least one count of the indictment. As such, the Board is requesting immediate action following the entry of his guilty plea next week.”
Board members said they were aware of Mayor King’s intent to leave office, but the date of that resignation was unclear. They sought to bring clarity to the situation by simply requesting his resignation.
In order for the board to remove him, state law says aldermen must go through the State Attorney General’s office.
City Attorney Amy St. Pe said on Thursday that it appears that once King is found guilty, then the State Attorney General shall promptly enter a motion removing Mayor King from office. The court, after hearing the State Attorney General’s motion, may then enter an order removing Mario King from office.
If he resigns or is removed from office, the current board will select the interim mayor.
The Kings are set to appear back in court on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. Mario King told WLOX News that he would be making a statement at that time. However, he said he does expect a press release to be issued before then.
The 14-count indictment was filed on April 28, 2020, alleging that Mario and Natasha solicited funds beginning in 2018 from a benefit gala but did not use that money for its intended purpose, which was to support a mental health program for Moss Point School District.
The benefit gala was being hosted by the King’s personal business, Rejuvenate LLC, which they formed together in April 2018. Authorities allege in the indictment that the business’ bank account had no activity on it other than monthly statements until December 2018, when the couple announced plans for the benefit gala.
Money from that benefit was reportedly used by the Kings for various personal expenses, including the down payment on a new car, cash withdrawals, and paying credit card charges that were used to purchase a pedigreed dog.
The invitation to the event, which was to be held on March 23, 2019, stated that the “gala honors and supports organizations that are making a difference for the mental health community. Proceeds support the efforts of mental health in the City of Moss Point with a focus on the Moss Point School District, converting spaces into a therapeutic and innovative learning environment.”
Just weeks after the gala took place on April 8, 2019, Natasha King allegedly used a business credit card from Rejuvenate to make a $2,000 down payment on a Cadillac XTC. The indictment says she returned that vehicle 12 days later and soon after received a refund for the down payment, which she deposited into the couple’s personal checking account.
On April 16, 2019, the Kings reportedly paid off two credit cards - one in the amount of $270 and the other for $475 - which were used to purchase a Biewer terrier in December 2018. The money for those credit card payments was also was taken from gala funds deposited in the Rejuvenate bank account, states the indictment.
On May 1, 2019, Natasha reportedly withdrew $1,000 from the Rejuvenate business account that contained the proceeds from the gala. That same day, the indictment says she took another $2,700 in cash from the couple’s joint checking account, which included $2,000 that was raised at the gala.
On May 12, 2019, the indictment said Natasha purchased a Volvo, paying $3,700 down on it. Authorities say $3,000 of that money was from the gala’s proceeds.
Prior to the gala, the couple appeared together on WLOX television and described the event, saying that funds from the gala would be used to create safe spaces for mental health counseling in the city’s school district.
However, state and federal agencies allege that the Kings used some of the money to pay for the gala and did not give the remaining proceeds to the school district.
Some of the funds were used to pay for the cost of the Gala, but the remaining proceeds did not go to the Moss Point School District, said authorities.
To read the full indictment against the Kings, click HERE.