On Thursday, a former executive director for the Mississippi Department of Education and three co-defendants were accused of the act of fraud.
Cerissa Renfroe Neal, David B. Hunt, Joseph Kyles, and Lambert Martin are the accused. Neal served as executive director from 2013 to 2016.
The below text is a release from the Department of Justice.
“According to the indictment, Cerissa Neal was the Executive Director of the Mississippi Department of Education during 2013-2016, when she conspired with the three named defendants and other conspirators, to defraud the State of Mississippi and the United States by bid-rigging, false quotes, and altered purchase orders, in order to make money and profit by defrauding the Mississippi Department of Education into awarding contracts and purchase orders at inflated prices, directed to conspirators and their businesses.
The indictment alleges that Neal, using her position within the Mississippi Department of Education, would split contract requests from one contract into multiple, smaller contracts, in order to avoid threshold amounts that would trigger a formal, competitive bidding process. Neal would entertain and advocate for a bid for the contract from one of the three conspirators’ businesses, including The Kyles Company in Memphis, Tennessee (Joseph Kyles), Doc Imaging (also d/b/a as “Hunt Services”) in Jackson, Tennessee (David Hunt), and Educational Awareness in Memphis, Tennessee (Lambert Martin). To meet the Department of Education requirement that such an informal bid have at least two competing vendor quotes for comparison, Neal would obtain false and inflated quotes, by herself and from the other conspirators, designed to make the intended conspirator’s business the lower bid, and to guarantee the award of the contract.
The indictment alleges that conspirators coordinated their submissions to the Department of Education as well as the sharing of the resulting contract payments. After the Department of Education made payment on the rigged contract to the conspirator-owned business, the winning bidder shared some of the money with conspirators, in return for their assistance in rigging the bid and winning the Department of Education contract. In this manner, Neal received more than $42,000 directly or indirectly from her conspirators. Kyles, Hunt, and Martin, through their respective businesses, garnered over $650,000 from the State of Mississippi, including federal funds granted by the U.S. Department of Education to Mississippi.”