Ex-Choctaw Indians official, wife indicted on theft, fraud charges
Published 2:51 pm Monday, October 7, 2019
A former member of the Tribal Council for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and his wife have been arraigned on a Superseding Indictment for theft/embezzlement, wire fraud, money laundering conspiracy, and false statements to a bank, in separate schemes to defraud the Tribal government with false claims for travel reimbursement payments and to improperly influence a federally-insured bank, announced United States Attorney Mike Hurst and Michelle A. Sutphin, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Mississippi.
A superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury on September 10, 2019, charges the former Tribal Council member and his wife with defrauding the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, as well as misleading a federally insured bank with intent to obtain loans. They are charged and identified as:
Between March 2015 and June 2017, the husband and wife are alleged to have forged hotel bills and receipts, and submitted those documents to the Tribal government in claims for reimbursement for official business travel by Kevin Edwards. Edwards is a former Member of the Tribal Council who left office in June 2017.
After receiving the unlawful payments from the tribal government, the two defendants cashed and transferred the payments to multiple bank accounts and paid off personal loans in the name of Sheena Edwards. In addition, both defendants made false statements on multiple personal loan applications to a local bank, inflating Kevin Edwards’s salary and claiming Kevin Edwards was employed by the Tribe after he had left office and was not so employed.
Kevin Edwards appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda Anderson for arraignment on October 4, 2019. Sheena Edwards appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda Anderson for arraignment on September 25, 2019. Kevin Edwards is charged with one count of Theft or Embezzlement from a Tribal Organization, which carries a maximum sentence of imprisonment of five years.
In addition, Kevin Edwards is charged with two counts of Wire Fraud, which charges carry a maximum term of imprisonment of twenty years. Each count also can merit a fine of up to $250,000 and up to three years of supervised release.
Both Kevin and Sheena Edwards face charges of Conspiracy to launder money and substantive acts of Money Laundering, which carries a maximum penalty of twenty years imprisonment for each count; and charges of False Statements to a Bank, which carries a maximum penalty of thirty years for each count. Each of those counts also can merit a fine of up to $250,000 and up to five years of supervised release.
The case is set for trial before United States District Judge Henry T. Wingate on November 25, 2019, in Jackson, Mississippi.
U.S. Attorney Hurst commended the work of the Special Agents with the FBI’s Jackson Division who investigated the case. The Leake County Sheriff’s Office assisted with arrests. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Theodore Cooperstein.
The public is reminded that an indictment is merely a charge and should not be considered as evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.