Mississippi woman found guilty of conspiring to create fake hair care service to hide drug money

Published 5:13 am Thursday, September 1, 2022

A Mississippi woman was found guilty by a federal jury on Wednesday, August 24, 2022, of conspiring to falsify business and income records with the intent to obstruct a federal investigation.

According to court documents, in December of 2017, Esther Bennett, 49, of Pearl, and co-defendant, Kristy Dier, were intercepted on communications discussing ways to legitimize drug proceeds seized by law enforcement from Kristy Dier.  Bennett constructed a false ledger, claiming the seized money was from hair care services that were never provided.  After Bennett prepared the ledger, she provided it to Dier, who in turn filed the ledger, along with a Petition to Contest Forfeiture, with the Hinds County Clerk’s office in an attempt to recover the funds.

Bennett will be sentenced on November 29, 2022.  She faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison.  A federal district judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

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The case is the result of an extensive investigation, dubbed “Drama Queen,” which began as an operation targeting illegal drug trafficking in the central Mississippi area. “Drama Queen” is part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces (OCDETF) investigation. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level drug traffickers, money launderers, gangs, and transnational criminal organizations that threaten the United States by using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach that leverages the strengths of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies against criminal networks.

The case was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Hinds County Sheriff’s Department, and the Richland Police Department.  It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Keesha Middleton and Glenda Haynes.