2 Mississippi businessmen indicted in pandemic fraud case

June 17, 2022 GMT

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Two Mississippi businessmen, including one who served on the governor’s economic recovery advisory commission, have been indicted on charges connected to the fraudulent receipt of more than $2 million in pandemic relief money, prosecutors said Friday.

A federal grand jury in Oxford issued indictments Wednesday of Columbus residents Jabari Ogbanna Edwards, 49, and Antwann Richardson, 37.

Edwards and Richardson are charged with money laundering, wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, according to Clay Joyner, U.S. attorney for northern Mississippi. Edwards also is charged with making a false statement.

Federal court records on Friday did not list any attorneys for Edwards or Richardson.

U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock on Friday ordered the two men not to sell, transfer or give away assets connected to the case, court records show.

In April 2020, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves appointed Edwards as one of several members of Restart Mississippi, a commission to advise him on restarting Mississippi’s economy as COVID-19 cases began spreading in the state and around the nation.

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Edwards and Richardson applied for and received money from the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program for the now-defunct business North Atlantic Security, according to court documents.

An indictment says North Atlantic Security received more than $500,000 from the Paycheck Protection Program about one month before it sold its contracts and assets to American Sentry Security Services.

North Atlantic Security stopped doing business in March 2021, but it applied for and received more than $1.8 million in Economic Injury Disaster Loan funds in October and November of that year, the indictment says.

Federal prosecutors allege that Edwards and Richardson laundered the money through their other businesses, including J5 Solutions, Edwards Enterprises, J5 GBL, BH Properties and The Bridge Group. The news release from Joyner said the men used the money for unauthorized expenses, including personal real estate transactions, political contributions, charitable donations, loan payments for vehicles, payments to friends, family and employees of their other companies and the purchase of Court Square Towers in Columbus.