Editor’s Note: This story has been updated following new information from MDE. Cerissa Renfroe Neal was an former exec. director within MDE.
JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – Charges against a Tennessee developer, who was accused of defrauding the state of Mississippi, have been dropped. However, Cerissa Renfroe Neal, a former executive director within the Mississippi Department of Education (MDE), still faces charges in connection to a bidding scheme.
The Clarion Ledger reported developer David B. Hunt, Joseph Kyles and Lambert Martin, all of Tennessee, were indicted in February 2020 for their alleged involvement in a scheme in which Neal is accused of using her position with MDE to rig bids in favor of each of their businesses.
They were each indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and seven counts of wire fraud. The indictment also charged Neal and Kyles with one count of money laundering and three counts of bribery.
According to the newspaper, Hunt claimed he was mistakenly included in the conspiracy prosecution. His defense team argued there wasn’t enough evidence against him, and the federal prosecutor agreed. All charges against Hunt have been dropped.
Neal is accused of bid-rigging, false quotes and altered purchase orders in order to make money and profit by defrauding MDE into awarding contracts and purchase orders at inflated prices, directed to conspirators and their businesses.
If convicted, she faces maximum penalties of 20 years in prison for each count charged for conspiracy and wire fraud and ten years in prison for each count of money laundering and bribery. Each count can also merit a fine of up to $250,000.