Diaz and Minor Among Those Arraigned on Fraud and Bribery Charges

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Diaz, his ex-wife, Jennifer Diaz, former Harrison County judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield and Ocean Springs lawyer Paul Minor posted ten-thousand-dollar personal recognizance bonds after charges in a 16-count indictment were read in court Wednesday.

The five appeared at a brief hearing before U.S. Magistrate Jim Sumner where they pleaded innocent to the charges. They will stand trial on October 6.

Diaz and Minor have been indicted on fraud and bribery charges. Jennifer Diaz, Teel, Whitfield face the same charges. Minor was also indicted on a separate charge of racketeering.

A year-long corruption investigation was launched last fall, centering on whether trial lawyers paid off bank loans for state judges in exchange for favorable treatment in court.

The indictment alleges Minor received advantages in court by paying off loans, guaranteeing loans, making direct payments of cash and paying legal expenses incurred by some of the accused.

Prosecutors have been investigating whether attorneys paid off loans to judges through The Peoples Bank of Biloxi and Merchants and Marine Bank in Pascagoula. They subpoenaed records from the Mississippi Supreme Court and state Court of Appeals and courts on the coast.

Diaz was appointed to the Supreme Court in March 2000 by Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.