Former VHA supervisor arrested for embezzlement|New Jones charges follow indictment for cocaine

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 14, 2009

Former Vicksburg Housing Authority manager Charles Jones Jr. was charged Wednesday with embezzlement of VHA property, a step Vicksburg Police Chief Tommy Moffett said could have been taken months ago if VHA Executive Director Jim Stirgus Sr. had cooperated after Jones’ arrest six months ago on drug charges.

“We could have made an arrest and charged Charles Jones with embezzlement back in December if it had not been for Mr. Stirgus refusing to cooperate with police and sign a complaint against him,” Moffett said.

VHA board chairman Jay Kilroy signed affidavits Tuesday morning after the five-member panel met Monday in a special session and voted to claim items police seized from Jones’ home as property of the public housing agency.

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 Stirgus, who left Monday’s meeting at its outset and called it illegal and “politically motivated,” could not be reached after the new arrest — but has said repeatedly he does not believe Jones stole from the housing authority. He is an outspoken critic of Moffett, but has stopped short of accusing the police chief of manufacturing evidence.

Jones, 45, 924 Bowmar Ave., was indicted last week on charges of one count possession of cocaine and one count possession with intent to sell the drug. He is scheduled to go to trial on the drug charges Nov. 30, and faces up to 46 years in prison if convicted and maximum terms are imposed consecutively. The drug charges stem from Jones’ Dec. 19 arrest after he alleged to have picked up a 2.2-pound package of cocaine mailed to him at the VHA office at 131 Elizabeth Circle. With a warrant, police then searched Jones’ home and confiscated an array of power tools and other items, still in original packaging. Kilroy has said there’s no doubt the items were purchased with VHA money after he matched serial numbers to purchase orders.

Although he has twice previously waived his right to appear in court on the drug charges, Jones stood on crutches before Municipal Court Judge Walterine Langford on Wednesday, dressed in shorts and a T-shirt. He spoke only to say he understood the embezzlement charge and to answer “no” when Langford asked if he was employed.

Stirgus fired Jones after the arrest. HUD reviews of VHA records indicated proper record-keeping.

Attorney Mike Bonner, who along with attorney Travis T. Vance Jr. is representing Jones on all charges, said Jones was on crutches due to a medical procedure he had undergone earlier in the day. Langford set Jones’ bond at $50,000 and said his case could come before a grand jury as soon as August. Bonner said Jones would post bail immediately.

“There’s a lot of politics included in this today,” said Bonner, referencing the mayoral election on June 2, in which the issue of Moffett’s leadership has become a divisive issue between Mayor Laurence Leyens, who hired the chief, and challenger Paul Winfield, who has questioned Moffett’s effectiveness.

Bonner declined to discuss Jones’ defense, and said only that “my client looks forward to his day in court.” He added the presence of newspaper and television reporters at Jones’ initial hearing Wednesday “leads me to believe it’s politically motivated.”

Moffett has said the drug arrest came after a five-year investigation conducted as Stirgus was vocal about police not being able to keep narcotics out of VHA developments, specifically Waltersville Estates, a gated apartment complex with 24-hour security.

About $80,000 worth of various, unopened merchandise and a lesser amount of cocaine was reportedly discovered at Jones’ home upon a subsequent search. Six vehicles and much of the merchandise — which included everything from cleaning supplies and water heaters to yard equipment and 70 cases of beer — was seized by police and the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics, who assisted in the arrest.

Jones is being charged with stealing $4,370.55 worth of housing authority property. Moffett said additional charges could be forthcoming, as only the seized merchandise for which serial numbers can be matched to VHA invoices is included in the charge filed Wednesday.

“There’s a lot more property we’ve seized, and a lot more property the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics has seized,” said Moffett. “The investigation will continue.”

Moffett confirmed the investigation includes a look into whether or not Jones was involved with or owned a company that was contracted to do nearly $100,000 worth of work for the VHA in 2001. Kilroy on Monday showed VHA board members copies of checks made out to a company called Central City Services & Supplies, which Kilroy said were endorsed by Jones. In a Feb. 23 letter addressed to District Attorney Ricky Smith, VHA Board Attorney Buddy Dees Jr. wrote the contracted work was completed on evenings and weekends, but added “laws may have been violated since Mr. Jones was a maintenance supervisor and housing authority employee when this work was done on housing authority property by his own business.”  

Before being fired by Stirgus following his arrest, Jones had worked for the VHA since 1983 and been in charge of maintenance, purchasing and receiving since 1991.


Contact Steve Sanoski at