2 Mississippi businessmen charged in pandemic fraud case

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

A federal grand jury in Oxford on Wednesday indicted 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 North Mississippi U.S. Attorney Clay Joyner. Edwards is also accused of making a false statement.

On Friday, federal court filings listed no attorneys for Edwards or Richardson.

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

In April 2020, Republican Governor Tate Reeves named Edwards as one of several members of Restart Mississippi, a commission tasked with advising him on restarting Mississippi’s economy as COVID-19 cases began to spread. in the state and across the country.

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

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

North Atlantic Security ceased operations in March 2021, but requested and received more than $1.8 million in economic disaster loan funds in October and November of the same year, the indictment said. .

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

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