Federal prosecutors drop charges against former DMR manager Tina Shumate, citing state plea

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GULFPORT, Mississippi — Federal prosecutors, apparently satisfied with a guilty plea in state court, dropped charges Wednesday against a former Mississippi Department of Marine Resources manager.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jerry Rushing made the filing in federal court in Gulfport to dismiss the indictment on conspiracy and fraud charges, and U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett signed it, giving as a reason that "the defendant pled guilty and has been sentenced to felonies in a state court of Mississippi."

Shumate pleaded guilty Friday in Harrison County Circuit Court to signing false travel documents and receiving reimbursement for expenses she didn't incur.

The former manager of the department's coastal resource office is already serving a two-year prison sentence on that state conviction, which will be followed by four years of probation. Circuit Judge Roger T. Clark ordered Shumate to pay $14,091 in restitution.

Four other state charges were dismissed as part of that plea agreement.

With the charges against Shumate dismissed, the only unresolved criminal case in the Marine Resources scandal is against Kerwin Cuevas, the former director of the artificial reef program. Cuevas faces trial in state court on two counts of embezzlement.

In the federal case, Shumate was accused of conspiring with Marine Resources then-Executive Director William Walker and his son, Scott Walker, to help them funnel federal money into buying a waterfront lot that Scott Walker owned in Jackson County. Shumate was alleged to have approached the nonprofit Land Trust for the Mississippi Coastal Plain, which bought the land in 2011 using $210,000 in federal money.

Shumate attorney Tim Holleman told the Sun Herald (http://bit.ly/1AyHvUE) that Shumate had no idea Bill Walker had a financial interest in the property and did not conspire with the Walkers to sell it.

"We're happy it's all coming to an end," Holleman said. "We hope to have Tina home soon."

William Walker and Scott Walker have both been convicted in federal court. William Walker was sentenced to five years in prison followed by three years of supervised release. He was fined $125,000 and ordered to pay $572,689 in restitution. Scott Walker was sentenced to 18 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $180,000 in restitution along with former D'Iberville City Manager Michael Janus.

In addition to charges that he benefited from DMR buying his land, Scott Walker pleaded guilty to charges that he and Janus bilked D'Iberville out of a $180,000 commission on a grant. Janus was sentenced to 21 months in prison in addition to the money he and Scott Walker owe.

Former Chief of Staff Joseph Ziegler pleaded guilty in federal court to helping conceal a felony and awaits sentencing.

Three other former DMR employees have pleaded guilty to state embezzlement charges. Leslie Young Gollott was sentenced to two years of house arrest and five years of probation. Jere Grant Larsen Jr. and Susan Perkins were each sentence to two years of probation.

Another three former employees received demands to repay money from state Auditor Stacey Pickering, but have not been criminally charged.

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