Former VHA supervisor handed 10 years in prison

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Charles Jones, the former Vicksburg Housing Authority supervisor who pleaded guilty Nov. 2 to cocaine possession in a deal that dropped other felony charges, was sentenced Tuesday to 10 years in prison and fined $5,000.

Jones also faces possible forfeiture of hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, vehicles, weapons and other items in a civil action filed by the Mississippi Bureau of Narcotics.

Click here for list of confiscated items

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The MBN claims Jones got the goods from drug-related activity or intended to use vehicles or other items “in violation of, or to facilitate the violation of the Mississippi Uniform Controlled Substances Law.” State law says a judge can order ill-gotten gains be turned over to the government.

Included in the seizure are $94,159.34 in cash; seven automobiles including a Cadillac, a Mercedes-Benz and a Chevrolet Corvette; 30 weapons, including rifles, shotguns and handguns; and numerous power tools and hardware items.

Jones is contesting the seizure, said his attorney, Ramel L. Cotton, of the Jackson firm Morgan and Morgan. The civil action is scheduled to be heard March 12 in Warren County Court.

Tuesday, Circuit Judge M. James Chaney imposed the prison sentence as recommended by District Attorney Ricky Smith, which adds five years of post-release probation.

Cotton asked Chaney to delay Jones’ sentence until Monday to allow the two to finish going through tax returns, bank statements and other documents related to the MBN suit. Cotton said Jones is not a flight risk or threat to any Warren County citizen.

Chaney denied the request, but said he would do what he could to keep Jones in the Warren County Jail for 10 days and available to his attorney instead of having him immediately transferred to a state prison. Jones had been free for three weeks following his guilty plea instead of being jailed, Chaney pointed out.

Jones, 45, had faced a charge of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and an embezzlement indictment. Those charges were not prosecuted in the deal. As a first offender, Jones faced up to 30 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines, Smith said. It was not clear when Jones would be eligible for parole.

Jones had worked for the VHA since 1983 and had been in charge of maintenance, purchasing and receiving since 1991.

He was arrested Dec. 19 after police said he accepted a Federal Express shipment at the housing authority office that contained more than two pounds of cocaine. At $100 per gram, the street value of the cocaine was about $100,000, police said. Another small package of cocaine was found when police later searched Jones’ Bowmar Avenue home, prosecutors said.

In addition, the home search turned up thousands of dollars in merchandise, including power tools, water heaters, generators and lawn equipment, some in original packaging and addressed to the VHA. Later investigations by the VHA board of trustees traced serial numbers back to invoices paid by the housing authority.

Jay Kilroy, VHA board chairman, said today the VHA expects to recover housing authority property. The MBN is aware of the items linked to the VHA, Kilroy said, and police were holding the items in storage.

Police Lt. Bobby Stewart said the goods will be returned to the VHA as soon as police receive a written notice from Smith’s office that the items are no longer needed for evidence in the dropped embezzlement case.

Jones’ arrest was the result of a five-year investigation led by former police Chief Tommy Moffett into narcotics dealing in various housing authority properties after then-VHA executive director Jim Stirgus complained about drug activity in VHA developments, specifically Waltersville Estates, a gated apartment complex off North Washington Street that has 24-hour security.

Jones was freed Dec. 23 on $250,000 bond, and fired by Stirgus. The grand jury indicted him in May on the two drug counts.

After the embezzlement arrest May 13, charging Jones with stealing $4,370.55 worth of housing authority property, he was released on an additional $50,000 bond. The grand jury indicted him in October for embezzlement, but when Jones accepted the plea bargain, his arraignment was canceled.

The eventual fallout of the drug arrest included the VHA board, with four new members appointed by city officials, firing Stirgus after 21 years on the job. The new board also launched an investigation into housing authority accounts payable procedures and records, discovering thousands of dollars paid to companies for which Jones had endorsed payment checks. Stirgus is not implicated in any wrongdoing and the public housing agency’s oversight authorities have remained mum on what the local board has found.

Moffett, with whom Stirgus publicly feuded, also lost his job when his command of the police department became an issue in the June mayoral election, and he was fired by the Board of Mayor and Aldermen after Mayor Paul Winfield took office. Moffett attended Jones’ sentencing Tuesday, leaving afterward without comment.


Contact Pamela Hitchins at