The office of the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi, along with state Auditor Shad White, announced that Moss Point Mayor Mario King and his wife Natasha King were indicted Friday on federal fraud charges related to a Mayor’s gala held in 2019.
The indictment alleges that the pair used money raised at the event for personal purchases instead of contributing it to the Moss Point School District as they told those who bought tickets and donated to the event.
The indictment says that King and his wife began soliciting funds in 2018 for a gala to be held on March 23, 2019 in Moss Point. According to the solicitation, the gala was “supposed to honor and support organizations that are making a difference for the mental health community.
The mayor and his wife described the gala on WLOX television on March 4, saying that the funds would go to create safe spaces for mental health counseling at the Moss Point School District.
The event was put on by Natasha King’s Rejuvenate LLC, which used city funds and employees to assist with the event.
Instead, the indictment alleges, the pair used the proceeds from the gala for personal purchases that included the down payment on a vehicle, cash withdrawals and the payment of credit card debts involved with the purchase of a pet.
The defendants appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Walker on Friday for their initial appearance and arraignment.The case will be handled by U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden. If convicted, the defendants could face up to five years in prison on the conspiracy charge and up to twenty years on each of the 13 wire fraud charges. Each of the 14 counts carries a possible fine of $250,000.
The Moss Point mayor has been no stranger to controversy. The mayor was hit with two lawsuits while in office, one based on an age discrimination claim that alleged that the mayor had created a hostile work environment and even brandished a weapon at a city employee despite there being a no-weapons policy at the Moss Point city hall.
Another lawsuit filed by an alderman claimed that the mayor allegedly assaulted and threatened him during an executive session at a board meeting in December 2018.
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