Mississippi businessmen burst into tears after being found ‘not guilty’ on all 17 counts in COVID-19 fraud trial

Published 8:04 am Saturday, April 6, 2024

Two Mississippi businessmen burst into tears after a federal jury acquitted them of 17 charges against them in a fraud case involving millions of dollars of COVID relief funds.

The Columbus Dispatch newspaper reported that a federal jury deliberated more than nine hours before returning “not guilty” verdicts on all charges against Columbus businessmen Jabari Edwards and Antwann Richardson.

Edwards and Richardson were accused of misspending nearly $2 million in COVID-19 relief money, including real estate purchases and charitable donations.

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They faced up to 75 years in prison if they had been found guilty.

In June 2022, Edwards and Richardson were indicted on the charges of Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud, Wire Fraud, and Money Laundering. Edwards also faced charges for Making a False Statement.

Rather than use the PPP and EIDL funds for permissible expenses, the prosecution accused Edwards and Richardson of laundering these funds through their other businesses, including J5 Solutions, Edwards Enterprises, J5 GBL, BH Properties, and The Bridge Group, and using these funds for several unauthorized expenses, including personal real estate transactions, political contributions, charitable donations, loan payments for vehicles, lump sum payments to friends, family, and employees of their other companies and the purchase of Court Square Towers in Columbus, Mississippi.