Lincoln Co. sheriff indicted on 15 counts, Charges include private property work, witness tampering, fraud

Published 5:00 am Thursday, August 31, 2006

Lincoln County Sheriff Wiley Calcote was charged Wednesday in a15-count indictment that accuses him of using inmates on hisprivate property, usurping fuel for personal use during the crisisfollowing Hurricane Katrina and fraud, among others.

The indictment includes nine counts of embezzlement by a publicofficial, two counts of tampering with a witness, two counts offailure to confine inmates, a single count of wire fraud and onecount of insurance fraud. Thirteen of the counts are felonies andtwo are misdemeanors.

“We have no comment at this time,” said Marlette Calcote, thesheriff’s wife, Wednesday evening.

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The sheriff turned himself in to Pike County authorities around3 p.m. Wednesday after being notified of the indictment.

“Under state law, a sitting sheriff cannot be booked into anyjail over which he has control. Instead, he must be arrested andplaced into custody in a neighboring county jail,” said Dee Bates,district attorney for the 14th Circuit Court District.

Calcote was released on his own recognizance by a specialCircuit Court Judge William Goza, of Jackson. Goza was appointed topreside over the case after 14th Circuit Court District Judges MikeTaylor and David Strong recused themselves.

“As of this time, no date has been set for Calcote’s arraignmentor other court appearances,” Bates said. “Those dates will bedetermined by the special circuit judge.”

The most serious charges facing Calcote, Bates said, are thenine counts of felony embezzlement by a public official. Each countcarries a penalty of up to 20 years in the custody of the stateDepartment of Corrections.

Specifically, three counts of embezzlement are for the use ofthree inmates on his private property between June 1 and Aug. 14,2004. Each count covers a separate time period when inmates RobertAllen Jackson, Mitchell Hugh Smith and Bryan Smith are alleged tohave done work on the property.

According to the indictment, inmates were used to load hay beingsold by Calcote, move appliances belonging to the sheriff, installa dishwasher and repair a water leak in his home and clean a barn,repair hay equipment, run cattle and remove the carcass of a deadhorse, all of which were Calcote’s property. The inmates were alsoused to perform other household and farm chores on his property,the indictment said.

Calcote is also accused of using diesel fuel received by LincolnCounty for Hurricane Katrina disaster relief operations for his ownuse between Aug. 29, and Oct. 17, 2005. The indictment did notspecify an amount and Bates said he could not discuss details ofthe case.

Other embezzlement charges stem from the alleged illegalconversion of public property under control of the sheriff’sdepartment to private property.

Those charges, according to the indictment, include an augerused between Jan. 1, 2004, and Aug. 16, 2005; a pressure washerfrom Oct. 1, 2005, to July 4, 2006; $350 entrusted to the county;using a county 2004 Dodge Ram pickup to relocate a freezer andcooler for his close, personal friend between June 1 and Aug. 1,2004; and using the same vehicle for personal business from Jan. 1,2004, to July 10, 2006.

Felony insurance and wire fraud charges are related to anaccident on Oct. 17, 2005, involving his 2000 Dodge Ram 3500quad-cab truck, according to the indictment. Calcote is accused offiling an insurance claim on Oct. 20 and providing fictitious orfraudulent statements regarding the facts surrounding theaccident.

According to the indictment, he further devised a scheme forobtaining money and insurance proceeds from the insurance companyregarding the pickup’s “control and condition” across telephone andstate lines, which would constitute wire fraud.

Insurance fraud carries a penalty of up to three years whilewire fraud can bring 10 years in prison, Bates said.

The sheriff is further accused in the indictment of felonywitness tampering by trying to intimidate and influence thetestimony of an inmate, Malcolm Walker, on July 10, 2006, and offormer Jail Warden Ralph Boone on July 14, 2006.

Boone tendered his letter of resignation on July 7 after beingplaced on medical leave from the department, according to countyrecords.

The two misdemeanor charges, according to the indictment, stemfrom allowing two state inmates in the sheriff’s custody to leavethe Lincoln County Jail unsupervised. Carl Andrew Smith allegedlyleft unsupervised on July 9, 2006, and Larson Moore at least oncebetween Dec. 20, 2005, and July 2, 2006.

The removal of state inmates from the Lincoln County Jail inmid-July and comments by Mississippi Department of CorrectionsCommissioner Chris Epps prompted Calcote to conduct an internalinvestigation in late July. At the conclusion of the internalinvestigation, the sheriff acknowledged that some improper jailpasses had been issued.

Calcote said his investigation revealed that one of hisemployees issued unauthorized inmate passes and the employee was nolonger employed by the sheriff’s department.

Bates said he could not comment on whether the incidentsidentified by the sheriff were the same as the two misdemeanorcharges.

“You have the information I can provide and you can draw yourown conclusions,” he said.

The failure to confine inmates charges carry a $100 to $500 fineeach, Bates said.

The indictment, Bates said, is the result of a lengthyinvestigation conducted by his office, including InvestigatorPhillip O’Brien, and investigators from numerous agencies,including the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, the MississippiState Auditor’s Office and MDOC.

An indictment is simply the official instrument setting forththe crimes for which Calcote has been charged and does not conveyguilt or innocence, Bates said.