The Democratic mayor of Moss Point, Mississippi, and his wife have been indicted as part of an alleged wire fraud scheme involving funds ostensibly collected to support mental health programs for local schools, as reported by Breitbart.
Mario and Natasha King are reportedly facing one criminal count each of conspiracy to commit fraud and 13 counts each of wire fraud.
All of the charges stem from a “Mayor’s Gala” they reportedly promoted as a fundraiser on behalf of a program implemented within the Moss Point School District.
“The way it should be used”
If convicted, they face a potential fine of up to $250,000 and as much as 20 years in federal prison for each wire fraud charge and another possible five years behind bars for the conspiracy charge.
The couple appeared in federal court on Friday for an arraignment hearing, according to WLOX.
In a statement to reporters upon leaving the courthouse with his wife, King said that they are anticipating the opportunity to present their case in court.
“Litigation is a tool I believe everybody should use the way it should be used,” he said.
Background on the allegations
An unsealed indictment in the case asserts that the Kings began soliciting donations in late 2018 for the gala, which was set to be held in March 2019 with the understanding that all proceeds would go toward the district.
The intended recipients allegedly never received the money, however. Aside from funds used to cover the costs of the event itself, prosecutors believe the rest was used for the couple’s personal expenses — including down payments on vehicles and credit card bills.
The indictments further claimed that Natasha King set up a bank account connected to the gala, detailing numerous transactions shifted from that account to others, including a personal checking account. Each of the transactions were considered wire fraud in violation of federal laws.
The Biloxi Sun Herald reported that the scheme was uncovered by a multi-agency investigation involving state and federal officials. The probe resulted in grand jury indictments handed down on June 10.
As for the mayor, he has yet to resign his mayorship, according to WLOX, and the city’s board of aldermen cannot force his resignation unless he is convicted. Local residents and everyone involved in the case deserve justice — hopefully, the ongoing trial will uncover exactly what happened.