Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood told a legislative committee Wednesday that he believes the criminal investigation into a defunct state-backed beef processing plant has reached a conclusion.

Hood said he plans to file a civil lawsuit that could open new avenues for a criminal investigation into the failed Mississippi Beef Processors, but he cautioned that he was simply speculating, not predicting.

Hood reasoned that the criminal investigation reached an end with the guilty plea last month of Richard Hall, the operator of the beef processing plant, on mail fraud and other criminal charges. Hall received an eight-year sentence in federal court in Oxford on charges related to filing false invoices to obtain state funds for personal use.

To get his prison term reduced, Hall would have provided investigators with the names of other people involved in the failed venture if there was any information to reveal, said Hood, a former district attorney in Northeast Mississippi.

“If Hall had it, he would have given it up,” Hood said.

Both the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Republican state Auditor Phil Bryant have said that the investigation is continuing. Bryant declined to appear before the committee on the advice of federal officials.

“I am disappointed the auditor is not here,” said Sen. David Jordan, D-Greenwood, chairman of the committee. “I understand this committee has subpoena power, and we may just have to do that.

“The auditor ought to respect this committee enough to show up. If you talk to the newspapers, then this legislative joint committee has the right to know.”

NE MS Daily Journal
2/16/06