Contractor accused of illegally using county-owned equipment, personnel

Larry Barnes
Larry Barnes(Source: Mississippi State Auditor's Office)
Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 12:43 PM CDT
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JONES COUNTY Miss. (WDAM) - Investigators with the Mississippi State Auditor’s Office have made an arrest in an investigation involving a former Jones County official.

State Auditor Shad White said his office has arrested a contractor, Larry Barnes, and issued a demand letter to Roland Graham, former road foreman for Jones County Beat 5.

Barnes is accused of using county-owned equipment and personnel to remove debris from a demolished building on private property in December 2017.

White said the county employees and equipment were under Graham’s supervision while they were being used.

“Personal use of public property is not allowed,” said White. “Everyone knows this. The days where this kind of thing will happen are over.”

White’s office is demanding Graham pay back $4,788.89 to the state. If payment is not made within 30 days, the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office must file a civil lawsuit against Graham to recover the funds, White said.

Barnes was booked into the Jones County Jail on one count of conspiracy to defraud the state Monday. If he is convicted of conspiracy, Barnes faces up to 5 years in prison and up to $1,000 in fines.

Barnes and Graham, along with a third suspect, were also arrested during a fraud and embezzlement investigation by the State Auditor’s Office in 2020.

White’s office said Barnes and Graham were using county equipment to remove debris from private land after entering into contracts with private individuals.

White said the private contracts resulted in a financial loss for the county.

Esau Moffett was also charged with hindering prosecution in the case.

Special agents said Moffett entered into a contract with Barnes and Graham to tear down a private residence and then provided false information, misled investigators and alerted Barnes when state agents were trying to find him.

A grand jury assembled by District Attorney Anthony Buckley indicted both men on charges of conspiracy to defraud the state, and Graham was also indicted for fraud or embezzlement.

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