McGee addresses indictments in Forrest County Jail investigation

McGee addresses indictments in Forrest County Jail investigation
Billy McGee

FORREST COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - Forrest County Sheriff Billy McGee spoke publicly for the first time Tuesday night about allegations of food theft and a federal investigation involving the Forrest County Regional Jail.

McGee spoke during a candidate forum at the Lake Terrace Convention Center, where he was campaigning against opponent and former Hattiesburg Police Chief Charlie Sims.

Stolen jail food, indictments and a federal investigation are just a few things surrounding McGee's run for a seventh term in office.

"There is not one piece paper at the Forrest County Courthouse that reflects that any steak, that any shrimp, that any clam strips, anything of that regard was bought or purchased with Forrest County tax payer money and received at the Forrest County Jail," McGee said.

McGee defended accusations brought forward by the U.S. Attorney's Office stemming from a two-year investigation.

"The conception that two people have been charged with theft of food from the Forrest County Jail is absolutely untrue," McGee said.

A bill of information from the U.S. attorney alleged that kitchen supervisor Allen Haralson and kitchen employee Jerry Woodland and others between 2002 through 2014, stole, obtained by fraud, knowingly converted or intentionally misapplied food, not served at the jail such as ribs, steak, shrimp, clam strips and brisket to themselves or others.

"Nobody has been charged with stealing food from the Forrest County Regional Jail, two people have been indicted for conspiracy," McGee said.

Those indictments ultimately led to both, Haralson and Woodland pleading guilty in 2014 in federal court to conspiracy to commit theft and mail fraud charges in the theft of food.

"There is also a law that says if Billy McGee knows that food is being stolen from the jail and he's not taking part in the theft itself, but he's allowing it to go on that he can be charged," McGee said. "I don't have any knowledge of any food being stolen from the Forrest County Jail."

Aside from the food issue, Haralson and Woodland and "others" are also accused of mail fraud after drafting and submitting various Forrest County purchase requisition forms, some of which contained fraudulent entries concealing the true identity of food and food-related items purchased by the Forrest County Detention Center, with the intent that such food and food-related items would be embezzled, stolen, converted, fraudulently obtained or intentionally misapplied by the defendants or others.

Haralson died at Forrest General Hospital in December 2014, and Woodland is set to be sentenced in federal court in December or later, according to court documents.

Woodland has been part of a series of continuances that have repeatedly pushed his sentencing date back multiple times.

McGee called out Mississippi Attorney General Candidate Mike Hurst, the former U.S. attorney who was handling a portion of the case.

"If something of that magnitude was going on, we would have been told so, so that things could be put in place so that would not happen," McGee said. "We have not been told one time, how this is happening and what process was being used."

Documents indicate there are "others" known and unknown and some yet to be named as a part of the investigation.

The U.S. Attorney's Office did not respond for a comment regarding the investigation.