State official to plead guilty in federal cases

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GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) — The former director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources plans to plead guilty in a federal fraud case, according to a motion filed Wednesday.

Court records show William W. "Bill" Walker will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government. A change-of-plea hearing is scheduled for March 10 in U.S. District Court in Hattiesburg.

Walker was indicted along with his son Scott Walker and former DMR employees Tina Shumate and Joseph Ziegler Jr., on charges that include conspiracy to commit federal-program fraud, and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. The three had been scheduled for trial June 2.

The case involves the Department of Marine Resources and the Mississippi Marine Resources Foundation. The charges against the Walkers and Shumate stem from a land transaction involving property the father and son had an interest in. Shumate persuaded a nonprofit to buy the land with money supplied by the DMR, the indictment says.

The charges against the Walkers and Ziegler involve a private foundation Bill Walker founded in 2004, about two years after he became DMR director. The indictment alleges the three funneled money intended for the state to Bill Walker's foundation, then used the money to enrich themselves or others.

On Tuesday, Scott Walker filed a change of plea notice in two cases — the one involving his father and a separate fraud case.

His change of plea hearing is scheduled for Friday in the Hattiesburg court.

In the second case, Scott Walker and D'Iberville City Manager Michael Janus were charged with conspiracy to commit program fraud, money laundering and other counts. The indictment alleges the two defrauded the city of D'Iberville out of $180,000 in federal grant money through phony invoices from a consulting firm in which Walker was a partner.

Courts documents show Scott Walker will plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit federal program fraud in the first case, and one count of federal program fraud in the second indictment.

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