WLOX News is reporting this morning that Moss Point Mayor Mario King and his wife will each plead guilty to a federal charge stemming from a 14-count indictment that was filed in April 2020 that alleged that the Kings solicited funds from a benefit gala but did not use that money for its intended purpose, which was to support a mental health program for Moss Point School District.

“On Tuesday, a notice was filed in the U.S. Southern District Court for Mississippi announcing Mario King’s intent to plead guilty to a federal charge. A similar document for Natasha King was filed the next day on Wednesday,” WLOX reports. “The notices filed this week do not indicate which charge Mario and Natasha King will plead guilty to, only indicating that each intend to plead to a single federal charge.”

The Kings are set to appear back in court on Wednesday.

A release from the U.S. Attorney’s office in July 2020 stated that the indictment alleged that the Kings began soliciting funds in late 2018 for a Gala to be held on March 23, 2019, in Moss Point.   The written solicitation stated that the “gala honors and supports organizations that are making a difference for the mental health community.  Proceeds support the efforts of mental health in the City of Moss Point with a focus on the Moss Point School District, converting spaces into a therapeutic and innovative learning environment.”

According to the indictment, on March 4, 2019, the Kings appeared together on WLOX and described the event, stating that funds from the Gala were to be used to create safe spaces for mental health counselling in the Moss Point School District.

Pursuant to allegations in the indictment, it was the understanding of those contributing to the Gala, either in the form of tickets purchased or contributions, that the proceeds from the Gala would go to the Moss Point School District. Some of the funds were used to pay for the cost of the Gala, but the remaining proceeds did not go to the Moss Point School District.  Instead, it is alleged that defendants Mario King and Natasha R. King used the proceeds for personal purchases, including the down payment on the purchase of a vehicle, cash withdrawals and the payment of credit card debts involving charges to complete the purchase of a personal pet.

The case was investigated by the Mississippi State Auditor’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Mayor King told WLOX News that he would be making a statement following the next court appearance. However, he said he does expect a press release to be issued before then.

It remains to be seen how this will effect his office with the City of Moss Point, whether his resignation is imminent and how this will impact the municipal elections currently underway.

Eight candidates are on the 2021 ballot running for Mayor of Moss Point. They are:

  • Jeramey Anderson (D), current State Representative
  • Howard Bailey (I)
  • Tenesha D. Batiste (D)
  • Sherwood Bradford St. (D)
  • Billy Knight (D)
  • Richard McBride (R)
  • Ashelia McCorvey (D)
  • Shira Stallworth (D)

The 2021 municipal Primary Election is April 6th and the General Election is June 8th.