State Auditor’s Third Arrest Booked in Rankin County School District Lawn Care Case

(Jackson, Miss.) State Auditor Stacey Pickering announced today that the third individual indicted in the Rankin County School District lawn care case was booked in to the Rankin County Jail on Thursday, May 12. Joseph Baker, Jr., employee of Taz Enterprises registered in Georgia, was arrested in April in Virginia. He was remanded to local authorities until he could be extradited to Rankin County to face charges in a scheme to defraud the taxpayers of Rankin County. Baker is charged with providing false invoices for pine straw that was never purchased for the Rankin County School System by Sanders Lawn Service. At the time of this release, Baker was still being held at the Rankin County Jail.

“This arrest marks the third individual to be charged with crimes relating to a scheme to defraud the Rankin County School District and ultimately the tax payers by invoicing and accepting payment for materials that were never purchased or provided to the School District,” said State Auditor Stacey Pickering. “District Attorney Michael Guest is moving forward in prosecuting these individuals who we believe have defrauded the taxpayers, and I appreciate his professionalism and his commitment to holding individuals accountable who break the law.”

In April 2011, the State Auditor’s Office arrested Dolister and Malcolm Sanders, a husband and wife providing lawn care services to Rankin County Schools, on the charges of Fraudulent Statements and Representations; Conspiracy to Defraud; Tampering with Physical Evidence; and Wire Fraud. Dolister and Malcolm Sanders are the owners of Sanders Lawn Service and have a service contract with the Rankin County School District. Sanders Lawn Service was allegedly not performing the work or providing the purchased product as detailed in their contract with RCSD or on their invoices to RCSD. The contract with RCSD had been in place since July 2005. The investigation uncovered invoices from Sanders Lawn Service for $80,260.30 for pine straw purchased that was never provided to Rankin County School District and showed Sanders Lawn Service and Joseph Baker created documents that concealed the fact the pine straw was not provided to Rankin County School District as reflected on the invoices submitted for payment.

State Auditor Stacey Pickering Release
5/16/11