Thursday, November 12, 2015

Guardianship Attorney Convicted, Imprisoned

The Mississippi Supreme Court affirmed the conviction of an attorney

Michael J. Brown was the attorney for the guardianship of DeMon McClinton, during which time he embezzled and/or mismanaged more than $1.2 million, much of it in Hinds County, where the guardianship and ward were located. He gave $550,000 of that guardianship money to Linus Shackelford as “loans” from the guardianship, the transactions for said loans culminating in Rankin County. Brown was convicted on two counts of  embezzlement in Rankin County for making those “loans” with guardianship funds. Because the trial court did not commit reversible error during the trial in this case, this Court affirms Brown’s convictions and his sentence to a term of years. However, the trial court exceeded its statutory authority with its sentence of restitution; therefore, this Court vacates the restitution portion of Brown’s sentence and remands the case for resentencing.

The Hinds County District Attorney reported that he received a 40-year sentence.

 Brown was under court order to use the funds strictly for the benefit of the child and not to dispense such funds without prior approval of the court. However, and unbeknownst to the court, Brown placed the estate funds into his own personal escrow account, not the court instructed guardianship account.

After receiving the funds, Brown began spending the money without the agreed contingents of court approval. His expenditures included purchasing five automobiles in Hinds County. Those purchases were conducted over a period of several weeks. Furthering his spending of the allocated funds in 2001, Brown wrote two checks totaling over $550,000 to Linus Shackleford. These funds were to be used as an investment for a cemetery owned by Shackleford, located on Lakeland Drive. This investment made by Brown resulted in McClinton losing a large majority of his inherited estate funds.

The guardianship was ultimately closed by Brown in 2006, after Brown had depleted over $1,200,000 of McClinton’s inheritance. At the time the guardianship was closed, Brown filed fraudulent paperwork with the Hinds County Chancery court that showed all money was properly spent and all funds were spent on benefit of the minor child.

In 2011, the estate of Demon McClinton was reopened by Hinds County Chancellor Dewayne Thomas. Judge Thomas conducted a series of hearings into the guardianship which led to the discovery that fraud had been committed by Brown. Judge Thomas alerted the District Attorney’s Office of the actions of Brown. The District Attorney’s Office proceeded to conduct an investigation of Brown, which then resulted in the Rankin County Grand Jury returning indictments for embezzlement.

 (Mike Frisch)

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