Mississippi mayor, wife indicted; prosecutors say they used mental health money on themselves

Published 1:04 pm Friday, July 10, 2020

A Mississippi mayor and his wife have been indicted on federal fraud charges after prosecutors said the couple raised money for mental health programs in schools but spent it on themselves for expenses that included car payments and the purchase of a pet dog.

Federal and state authorities announced the indictment of Moss Point Mayor Mario King, 33, and his wife, Natasha R. King, 32, on Friday at about the time the couple made their initial appearance before a federal magistrate judge in Gulfport.

A news release from the U.S. attorney’s office did not say whether the Kings were represented by their own attorney, and court records on Friday did not immediately list one for them.

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Mario King is a Democrat and was first elected as mayor in June 2017.

According to an indictment that was issued June 10 and unsealed Friday, Mario King and Natasha King began soliciting money in late 2018 for a March 23, 2019, event in Moss Point. A solicitation said the “gala honors and supports organizations that are making a difference for the mental health community. Proceeds support the efforts of mental health in the City of Moss Point with a focus on the Moss Point School District, converting spaces into a therapeutic and innovative learning environment.”

The indictment said the mayor and his wife made a local television appearance to promote the event.

The indictment said some of the money raised paid for expenses of the gala, but the rest did not go to the Moss Point School District. Prosecutors say the Kings used money raised by the gala for personal purchases, including the down payments to buy vehicles, cash withdrawals and the payment of credit card debts to buy a Biewer terrier from a veterinary clinic in Hattiesburg.

Moss Point has a population of about 13,350. It is in coastal Jackson County, near the Alabama state line. The city has about a 23% poverty rate, according to the Census.