State indicts Aldridges with embezzling from relative’s estate (MS)

5:00 UPDATE

TUPELO – State Rep. Brian Aldridge of Tupelo is reportedly on his way back to Lee County from an out-of-state trip, and law officials expect him to turn himself in on Wednesday in answer to an embezzlement indictment.

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3:35 P.M. UPDATE

TUPELO – Louis Aldridge of Tupelo, father of state Rep. Brian Aldridge, turned himself in to authorities this afternoon in response to his indictment on embezzlement charges.

At the same time, law enforcement continued to look for the legislator to inform him of the charges against him, although officials said they expected him to appear later today.

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EARLIER POST

TUPELO – State Rep. Brian Aldridge and his parents stand indicted on criminal embezzlement charges associated with money lost from a relative’s estate.

Aldridge, a Republican, represents House District 17 in Lee County.

If convicted, he must resign from office.

His parents, Louis Aldridge and Janice Aldridge, now divorced, also are charged with embezzlement.

Convictions for all three of them could mean imprisonment and financial penalties.

Mrs. Aldridge apparently turned herself in to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office this morning, with arrests of the men expected soon. Bond for each is set at $5,000.

The case is believed to have been brought recently by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood’s office to a Lee County grand jury. The June 28 indictments became public with their arrests today.

The Aldridges could not yet be reached for comment.

The charges stem from a 2008 lawsuit filed against the Aldridges by Florence Aldridge, the widow of Louis’ brother. She came to Tupelo in 2005 after her husband’s death after Louis and Janice promised to care for her while she suffered deep depression complicated by bipolar disorder.

From 2003 to mid-2008, she granted Louis durable power of attorney to look after her assets while she could not.

But in 2008, she discovered all her nearly $700,000 assets and family treasures were gone. Tupelo attorneys Rhett and Frank Russell took up her case in chancery court.

Today, 68-year-old Florence Aldridge is virtually destitute – living in a Pontotoc County nursing home. Until her health failed again, she lived in Tupelo and taught piano lessons.

After lengthy legal proceedings in 2011, Chancellor Michael Malski termed Louis Aldridge’s behavior “monumental impropriety and malfeasance” and ordered him to repay Florence $552,000. He also ordered his former charity, Touched By An Angel Ministries Inc., to come up with $140,000 Louis directed to it while he held Florence’s power of attorney.

Brian Aldridge is chief executive officer of the charity, which operated a camp for disabled children and adults. His father once was its chief financial officer.

While Malski initially cleared Brian of fiduciary responsibility to his aunt, he sharply chided him for his lack of attention to the charity’s finances, which were under Louis’ control until late 2011.

In May 2012, though, Malski ordered Brian Aldridge to repay his aunt $218,355 plundered from his aunt’s estate.

The judge said in his court order that even though Brian was not personally liable for her loss by his father, Brian was legally responsible for the charity through which Louis Aldridge funneled some of her money.

Brian Aldridge and TBBAM Inc. appealed the decisions to the Mississippi Supreme Court, but no rulings have come from there yet. He also sought a new trial over his aunt’s estate.

The charity established in 1996 was dissolved legally in September 2012.

A parallel for-profit catering business, TBAAM Enterprises Inc., was established by Louis Aldridge in 2002 and was dissolved in 2004 although Aldridge continued to use it to handle funds from his sister-in-law’s estate and any financial activity associated with the charity.

In August 2011, Louis and Janice Aldridge filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. They divorced in November 2012, citing irreconcilable differences.

The bankruptcy case was closed in April 2013 with $428,950 in claims discharged without payment, the court trustee reported.

Court documents in the civil lawsuit showed the Aldridges spent Florence’s money on cash, cars, vehicle repairs, clothing, and numerous trips including to Texas and Hawaii. One of those trips was Brian Aldridge’s honeymoon.

Attribution:

State indicts Aldridges with embezzling from relative’s estate
Patsy R. Brumfield
July 2, 2013
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
http://djournal.com/bookmark/23032541-State-indicts-Aldridges-with-embezzling-from-aunt-s-estate

Additional coverage:

Rep. Aldridge, parents face charges
Patsy R. Brumfield
July 3, 2013
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
http://djournal.com/view/full_story/23039274/article-Rep–Aldridge–parents-face-charges?instance=home_news_right

TUPELO – State Rep. Brian Aldridge and his parents face indictment on criminal embezzlement charges associated with a relative’s estate.

Aldridge, a Republican, has represented House District 17 in Lee County since 2004. He reportedly was on a trip out of state Tuesday but was expected to turn himself in today. Specifics of the charges against him will not be available until his arrest.

If convicted, his resignation from office is likely.

His parents, Louis Aldridge and Janice Aldridge, who divorced in November 2012, also are charged with embezzlement.

Convictions for all three of them could mean imprisonment and financial penalties. None could be contacted Tuesday for comment.

Mrs. Aldridge apparently turned herself in to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday morning. Louis Aldridge did so later in the day. Bond for each is set at $5,000.

Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood’s Public Integrity Division brought the charges to a Lee County grand jury for indictments dated June 28.

The charges stem from a 2008 lawsuit filed by Florence Aldridge, the widow of Louis’ brother. In 2005, she came to Tupelo after her husband’s death when Louis and Janice promised to care for her while she suffered deep depression complicated by bipolar disorder.

From 2003 to mid-2008, she granted Louis durable power of attorney to look after her assets while she could not.

But in 2008, she discovered nearly all of her $700,000 assets and family treasures were gone. Tupelo attorneys Rhett and Frank Russell took her case to court.

Today, 68-year-old Florence Aldridge lives in a Pontotoc County nursing home and is believed virtually destitute. Until her health failed again, she lived in Tupelo and taught piano lessons.

The public indictments, under state law related to trustees, accuse:

• Janice Aldridge of two counts – that on May 27, 2005, she embezzled more than $500 from Florence Aldridge’s Wachovia Bank account; from Feb. 1, 2006 to July 5, 2007, she converted for her own use more than $500 from her sister-in-law’s AmSouth Bank account as part of a common scheme.

• Louis Aldridge of three counts – from Feb. 1, 2005 to Oct. 15, 2005, he embezzled more than $500 from Florence’s Wachovia Bank account; From Sept. 20, 2006 to Feb. 25, 2007, he embezzled more than $500 from her AmSouth Bank account; and from Feb. 15, 2005 to Nov. 15, 2005, he embezzled more than $500 from her Bank of America account, all three counts as part of a common scheme.

Court records show the amounts in question could total into many thousands of dollars.

Documents in the civil lawsuit show the Aldridges spent Florence’s money on casinos, cash, cars, vehicle repairs, clothing, and numerous trips including to Colorado, Grand Cayman Islands and Hawaii. One of the Hawaii trips was Brian Aldridge’s honeymoon.

The statute by which they were indicted sets potential punishment at not more than 10 years in custody and a fine not more than $25,000 or both per count.

After lengthy legal proceedings in 2011, Chancellor Michael Malski termed Louis Aldridge’s behavior “monumental impropriety and malfeasance” and ordered him to repay Florence $552,000. He also ordered his former charity, Touched By An Angel Ministries Inc., to come up with $140,000 Louis directed to it while he held Florence’s power of attorney.

Brian Aldridge was chief executive officer of the charity, which operated a camp for disabled children and adults. His father once was its chief financial officer.

While Malski initially cleared Brian Aldridgeof fiduciary responsibility to his aunt, he sharply chided him for his lack of attention to the charity’s finances, which were under Louis Aldridge’s control until late 2011.

In May 2012, though, Malski ordered Brian Aldridge to repay his aunt $218,355 taken from his aunt’s estate.

The judge said in his court order that even though Brian was not personally liable for her loss by his father, Brian was legally responsible for the charity through which Louis Aldridge funneled some of her money.

Brian Aldridge and TBAAM Inc. appealed the decisions to the Mississippi Supreme Court, but no rulings have come from there yet. He also sought a new trial over his aunt’s estate.

In the meantime, the Russells counter-sued to ask the high court to overturn Malski’s award on Brian Aldridge and TBAAM, saying Malski’s figure was much too low.

The charity established in 1996 was dissolved legally in September 2012.

A parallel for-profit catering business, TBAAM Enterprises Inc., was established by Louis Aldridge in 2002 and was dissolved in 2004 although Aldridge continued to use it to handle funds from his sister-in-law’s estate and sometimes financial activity associated with the charity.

In August 2011, Louis and Janice Aldridge filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection.

The bankruptcy case was closed in April 2013 with $428,950 in claims discharged without payment, the court trustee reported.

Brian Aldridge’s legislative salary continues to be garnished to help repay his court ordered amount.

Aldridge, who served as president of the Mississippi Legislative Conservative Coalition for 2011-12, first was elected to an open House seat in 2003. He has comfortably won re-election twice.

He currently serves as chair of the Interstate Cooperation Committee and as a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

He has been considered a solid vote for both former Republican Gov. Haley Barbour and his Republican successor, Phil Bryant.

Rep. Aldridge returns to face criminal charges
Patsy R. Brumfield
July 4, 2013
Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal
http://djournal.com/bookmark/23049287-Rep-Aldridge-returns-to-face-criminal-charges

TUPELO – State Rep. Brian Aldridge is expected to turn himself in to authorities Friday.

Aldridge and his parents face state indictments associated with the plunder of a relative’s estate administered by Aldridge’s father, Louis, while his sister-in-law was ill.

Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson said the Republican legislator was on his way back to Tupelo from a mission trip when officers sought to arrest him Tuesday.

Louis Aldridge, 64, and his former wife, Janice Aldridge, 61, turned themselves in to the sheriff’s department Tuesday and were free on $5,000 bond each.

Both are charged with multiple counts of embezzlement from bank accounts holding the finances of Florence Aldridge, who moved to Tupelo from Florida in 2005 to be cared for by the couple while she suffered severe depression complicated by a bipolar disorder.

The Aldridges divorced late in 2012.

Brian Aldridge was elected to the state Legislature in 2003 and represents District 17 in Lee County.

His legislative wages continue to be garnished to satisfy a chancery court judgment against him in repaying his aunt’s estate.

If convicted on whatever charges will become public after his arrest, he likely will be required to resign the seat.

The charges brought to a Lee County grand jury by the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office stem from a 2008 civil lawsuit by Florence Aldridge seeking to recover her estate of more than $700,000 and family treasures.

In 2003, she granted her durable power of attorney to Louis Aldridge to take care of her affairs while she could not do so for herself. She moved to Tupelo after Louis and Janice promised to take care of her.

Now 68, Florence Aldridge resides in a Pontotoc County nursing home.

Tuesday, June 28 indictments against Louis Aldridge and Janice Aldridge charged them with embezzlement from Florence’s bank accounts. If convicted, they face punishment of up to 10 years in custody, $250,000 in fines or both per count.

Court documents show the Aldridges spent Florence’s money on casinos, cash, cars, vehicle repairs, clothing and numerous expensive trips.

After lengthy proceedings for Florence’s lawsuit against the Aldridges, Chancellor Michael Malski ordered Louis and Janice to repay $552,000 and his former charity, Touched By An Angel Ministries Inc., to pay $140,000 Louis funneled through it.

Later Malski also ordered Brian Aldridge, TBAAM’s chief executive officer, to repay his aunt $218,355 which came from the estate to the charity.

The legislator has appealed that decision to the Mississippi Supreme Court, but Florence’s attorneys counter-sued, claiming Malski’s awards were too low.

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