Thursday, January 27, 2022

Former MDE Director Indicted Again

 A former MDE Executive Director just keeps getting in trouble.  A federal grand jury indicted Cerissa Neal in August 2021 for trying to fraudulently obtain a PPP loan.   This is the second time Neal has been indicted for fraud in less than two years. 

Although Neal was indicted in August, the story begins a year earlier when JJ reported on September 3, 2020: 

An indictment charges a culture of corruption existed at the Mississippi Department of Education.  A federal grand jury indicted former MDE Director Cerissa Neal, Joseph Kyles, David  Hunt, and Lambert Martin for a bid-rigging and kickback scheme.

 Neal allegedly took kickbacks in exchange for steering contracts.  The indictment accuses her of bid-rigging and splitting contracts so they would fall below the minimum thresholds that required competitive bidding.  She allegedly manufactured phony, inflated price quotes to justify the sweetheart deals....

The federal grand jury returned the indictment in February 2020.  The indictment charged her with wire fraud, bribery, bribery involving federal programs, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud. Neal currently awaits trial in that case. Earlier post. 


The new indictment discloses she failed to disclose her 2020 indictment when she applied for PPP loans.  The indictment states: 

 5.  From at least as early as April 2020, the exact date being unknown to the Grand Jury, and continuing through on or about June 30, 2021, in Madison County, in the Northern Division of the Southern District of Mississippi, and elsewhere, the defendant, CERISSA RENFROE NEAL, aided and abetted by others known and unknown to the Grand Jury, did knowingly, and with intent to defraud, execute, attempt to execute, and cause the execution of, a scheme and artifice to defraud a financial institution, specifically Trustmark Bank, to obtain money, funds, and other property owned by, and under the custody and control of said financial institution, by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1344.

6.  It as the purpose of the scheme and artifice for the defendant and her accomplices to unjustly enrich themselves by misrepresenting defendant's eligibility for PPP Loans under the CARES Act.   As part of the scheme and artifice, the defendant would lull the victim bank and continue to defraud the victim bank by falsely stating and confirming in documents submitted to the lending bank, that the defendant, CERISSA RENFROE NEAL, was not presently under indictment or criminally charged in any jurisdiction.

The maximum penalties for the various charges are: 

False statements on loan application: $1 million fine, 40-year prison sentence

Bank fraud: $1 million fine, 40-year prison sentence

False statements: $250,00 fine, 40-year prison sentence

Offense committed while on release: $250,000 fine, 10-year prison sentence. 

Although she was indicted in August, the indictment was not unsealed until January 14.  She was arraigned on January 18. The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Tom Lee. Attorney John Colette represents Neal.



Anonymous said...

Good deal but come on man, you know damn well the same thing has happened and is currently happening in the lower ranks of the school systems. COUGH COUGH Hinds County School System...JPS.....and likely the privates as well ! PPP is the ultimate forbidden fruit that those with questionable ethics ...........meh. Millions ! Does HC Schools have static rooms ? No. Does the higher ups have new rides ? Yes. Tickets to Saints games ? Yes.

Krusatyr said...

I like the use of "artifice" in the indictment in connection to swindling. For some graduates of MS schools, this implies financial deceit is an art form requiring brilliant creative planning that justifies the reward.

Anonymous said...

All the local private schools got millions and the tuition-paying parents never stopped their monthly payments and didn't see a tuition break. PPP was supposed to be used to protect paychecks to employees (teachers in this case).

Where's that investigation? It wouldn't have anything to do with the fact that a prominent area law firm handled the PPP process for most of those schools?


It's Free Money said...

The PPP money has been a windfall for the Mercedes, AMG, and BMW dealerships.

Anonymous said...

MDE and its leadership have bigger problems than this coming it’s way……gonna be an interesting year for that agency.

Anonymous said...

I'm obviously not following things very well here. How much did she get in PPP funds? Don't you have to own a business to get PPP funds? Does she own a business on the side? How do you own a business and operate as ED of the MDE at the same time?

Anonymous said...

Should make for an interesting Sociology term paper for some conservative high school senior,lol.

Anonymous said...

These folks are stealing from our kids and y'all are more worried about some kid losing his free ride on another thread. This thread should have 100 comments ! Makes one wonder who comes here . board types ?

Anonymous said...

Cerissa will be picking up trash in Florence soon....

Anonymous said...

3:31 : No she won't. She get some sort of blessing and lets hope rolling on the others is it.

Anonymous said...

I'm holding on for an indictment of the current head of MDE. She's the 'fruit at the top of the tree'.

Anonymous said...

"Krusatyr said...
I like the use of "artifice"

Damn, boy. You so smart. I though Artifice starred in Wild Wild West.

Anonymous said...

@10:42am Do tell!

Anonymous said...

4:08 are you speaking of the lady with the roundest head on the internet?

Anonymous said...

I am shocked, I say to learn there is corruption by some in state government!

Anonymous said...

She was fired by MDE for her fraud after it was uncovered five years ago. Then she committed additional fraud in 2020 during COVID which is being reported here. How's this an MDE issue again? Sounds like she is scummy like the News.

Anonymous said...

She paid her lawyer, Dennis Sweet, with the PPP money that’s why he’s not representing her on this case

Anonymous said...

Consider this bit of supreme irony: The same people who fired this woman five years ago also hired Carey Wright to replace her. Read that again.

Anonymous said...

MDE is and has been dysfunctional for years. State gov’t and specifically the Auditor’s Office knows this, but turns a blind eye and generally ignores bigger issues and folks atop the chain of command. It’s all politics and BS. I’m hoping the curtain is pulled back very very soon. If certain dominoes fall the way they could, things are going to get very interesting for Carey Wright and others.

Anonymous said...

'How's this an MDE issue again?'

Who claims it's an MDE issue? MDE is relevant here, if only to remind us who this person is and her track record. Learn to connect dots.

Anonymous said...

January 27, 2022 at 4:14 PM

Today's winning comment.

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