Former Lumberton chief on trial

By: Mike McDaniel   Bio | Email | Twitter

LUMBERTON, MS (WDAM) - Day two in testimony against the former Lumberton police chief ended Tuesday afternoon with FEMA representatives, a power company employee and a U.S. postal worker testifying on behalf of the prosecution.

Federal Prosecutors say Maurice Hammond falsified reports and information given to FEMA, which resulted in more than $19,000 in Katrina Relief funds being approved for a home in Poplarville which Hammond claimed as his primary residence.

According to the court testimony and documents, Hammond claimed wind and rain caused extensive damage to the home located at 118 Hughes Street. The prosectors' first witness said the claim should have raised a red flag.

"When I read the inspection report, I would have questioned the type and amount of damage claimed," said Delores Nichols, a FEMA program specialist while testifying, "the cause was given as wind rain and in my experience, I've never seen that much damage done by that. It was also removed by the time the inspection was done. My experience tells me I would have to question that."

Hammond's attorney's questioned whether the inspection was done properly and pointed out FEMA allows damage to be cleaned up before inspections are done.

As the witness list continued, Cindy Cochran, an employee with Mississippi Power, testified power wasn't being served to the home from July 2004 to December 2006.

"Are there other means for people having electrical service?" Defense Attorney Joseph Hudson asked Cochran, pointing to generators as additional services.

Before ending day two, a U.S. postal worker testified for the prosecution. Darrel Ferguson's mail route includes the Hughes Street home, and he says he hasn't delivered mail to the home in years. Another FEMA representative testified before the testimony was over.

If convicted on the 8 counts of Katrina Fraud, Hammond could spend the rest of his life in prison.