Operation Pretense: The FBI's Sting on County Corruption in Mississippi

Operation Pretense: The FBI's Sting on County Corruption in Mississippi

by James R. Crockett

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Overview

During the 1980s fifty-seven of Mississippi's 410 county supervisors from twenty-six of the state's eighty-two counties were charged with corruption. The FBI's ploy to catch the criminals was code-named Operation Pretense.

Ingenious undercover investigation exposed the supervisors' wide-scaled subterfuge in purchasing goods and services. Because supervisors themselves controlled and monitored the purchasing system, they could supply sham documentation and spurious invoices. Operation Pretense was devised in response to the complaint of a disgruntled company owner, a Pentecostal preacher who balked at adding a required 10 percent kickback to his bid.

Detailing the intricate story, this book gives an account of the FBI's stratagem of creating a decoy company that ingratiated itself throughout the supervisors' fiefdoms and brought about a jolting exposé, sweeping repercussions, and a crusade for reform.

The case was so notable that CBS's Mike Wallace came to Mississippi to cast the Sixty Minutes spotlight on this astonishing sting and on the humiliated public servants it exposed to public shame.

The conditions that gave rise to such pervasive malfeasance, the major players on both sides, the mortifying indictments, and the push to finish the clean up are all discussed here.

In the wake of Operation Pretense were ruined careers, a spirit of watchdog reform, and an overhauled purchasing system bared to public sunshine. However, this cautioning book reveals a system that remains far from perfect.

This narrative report on the largest public corruption scandal in Mississippi history serves as a reminder of the conditions that allow such crime to flourish.

James R. Crockett is a professor of accountancy at the University of Southern Mississippi. His work has been published in Journal of Accounting Education, Accounting Educator's Journal, and Journal of Education for Business, among others.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781604739305
Publisher: University Press of Mississippi
Publication date: 12/22/2011
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
File size: 2 MB

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsix
Introductionxi
Timeline of Significant Events Related to Operation Pretensexv
Part I.The Operation Pretense Investigation and Related Trials
1.A License to Steal3
2.Perry County--The First Trial15
3.Wayne County--Two Trials and 60 Minutes42
4.Lamar County--Campaign Contributions52
5.Claiborne County--A Not Guilty Verdict60
6.Winston County--"I Didn't Know What a Kickback Was"65
7.Marion County--Pretense Plus72
8.A Vendor's Trial--Bobby Little Never Busted an Invoice80
Part II.Related Matters
9.The Auditors87
10.The Unit System--Slow Progress102
11.State Highway Commissioners--We Play Too123
12.Madison County--Who Pays for the Backhoe?135
Part III.Plea Bargains
13.Action in North Mississippi--Panola, Pontotoc, and Monroe Counties141
14.The Vortex of the Maelstrom--Attala, Leake, and Neshoba Counties168
15.The I-20 East Corridor--Scott, Newton, and Lauderdale Counties189
16.Rankin County--Three Boards of Supervisors in One Year209
17.Three Southern Counties with Five Crooked Supervisors--Smith, Jasper, and Clarke Counties221
18.Big-Time Corruption in South Mississippi--Copiah, Lincoln, Covington, and Greene Counties235
19.Crime on the Coast--Hancock, Harrison, and Jackson Counties257
20.The Vendors--It Takes Two to Tango278
Epilogue--Will the Beat Return?291
Appendixes
A.Counties and Their Officials Who Were Charged Under Operation Pretense, Indicted Highway Commissioners, and Vendors Charged in Operation Pretense--Disposition of the Cases301
B.The Tale of the Tapes309
Sources317
Index331

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