Former Stone County court clerk indicted on embezzlement charges
STONE COUNTY, Miss. (WLOX) - A former Stone County official has been indicted on four counts of embezzlement and is now held in a Stone County jail.
Former Stone County Circuit Court Clerk Jeffrey O’Neal is accused of embezzling over $200,000 during his time as circuit court clerk from 2016-2019.
“We will hold elected officials accountable when they take more than they are allowed, particularly if the embezzled funds should have been returned to victims of crimes in Stone County,” Auditor White said.
In Mississippi, circuit clerks are compensated for work based on the volume of services provided by their office. The clerks collect fees for those services. After paying or reimbursing the county for their employees’ salaries and deducting allowed expenses from the fee account, a circuit clerk may receive annual compensation of up to $90,000 from the fees. Any additional fees received by the clerk must be transferred to the county general fund.
O’Neal is accused of embezzling money from Stone County by writing checks to himself instead of to the county general fund as required by law. He also allegedly embezzled money that should have been returned to crime victims.
A demand letter for $335,353.61 was presented to O’Neal when he was arrested. That amount includes interest and investigative expenses for money identified as embezzled and misused.
In addition to arresting and presenting a demand letter to O’Neal, Special Agents issued individual demand letters to three current members and two former members of the Stone County Board of Supervisors. They are:
· Supervisor Clark Byrd – $36,085.32
· Supervisor Lance Pearson – $29,805.33
· Supervisor Daniel Harris – $24,698.22
· Former Supervisor Dale Bond – $36,085.32
· Former Supervisor Scott Strickland – $28,758.53
These amounts represent money improperly paid to former Stone County Circuit Clerk Jeffrey O’Neal by the Board of Supervisors. Each demand amount is calculated based on the votes made by the Board members and includes interest and investigative expenses. These demands are not accompanied by criminal allegations.
O’Neal will be arranged during the January 2022 court team in Stone County and a future trial date will be selected. If convicted on all counts, O’Neal faces up to 70 years in prison and $16,000 in fines.
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