If you drive about 200 miles northeast of Chattanooga, you will arrive in the small town of Mount Carmel. The mayor of the city of a little more than 5,000 residents has been charged with a white collar crime. Mayor Chris Jones has been indicted by a Hawkins County grand jury on a charge of theft of over $250,000.
The mayor allegedly embezzled nearly$394,000 from his grandmother’s estate. She died in 2016.
According to a news article, the prosecutor said that Jones’ arrest was after a year-long investigation by the TBI (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation).
“This charge has nothing to do with his duties as the mayor,” the district attorney said. “This charge is purely to do with his grandmother.”
Jones’ grandmother lived in West Virginia, but will be tried in Tennessee because the money Jones is alleged to have stolen was then deposited in a Hawkins County bank.
The mayor was booked into the county jail, where he was being held on $300,000 bond.
If convicted of the Class A felony charge, Jones could be sentenced to serve from 15 to 25 years in a state prison.
According to the news report, the mayor’s grandmother died on Jan. 2, 2016. Two months later, a lawsuit was filed against the mayor in West Virginia by his mother and two of his uncles. The civil suit accused him of embezzling more than $390,000 from his grandmother’s estate.
The suit said the grandmother had dementia and was not competent to give her grandson power of attorney or to endorse checks.
The mayor failed to appear for the trial, so the judge ordered him to pay $571,000, which included the amount allegedly stolen, as well as $131,000 in punitive damages, $40,000 in interest and $6,000 in attorneys’ fees.
The judge stated in the ruling that “the court finds defendant’s conduct reprehensible” and said the mayor had embezzled “nearly all” of his grandmother’s assets over the final year of her life.
Those facing white collar charges should contact a Chattanooga law firm experienced in criminal defense.