HATTIESBURG — The former kitchen supervisor at the Forrest County Detention Center has pleaded guilty to conspiracy for his role in illegally diverting food for the jail for personal use.
WDAM-TV reports Allen Haralson, 61, entered the plea yesterday before U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett. He remains free on bond. Sentencing was set for Feb. 5 at 2:15 p.m.
The case stems from an investigation first reported in June when the FBI and state auditor’s office requested copies of jail expenses dating back to the early 2000s.
The Hattiesburg American reports (http://hatne.ws/1tfOtIQ) the diversion of food and food-related items for personal use by Haralson and “others known and unknown to the United States Attorney” allegedly had taken place between 2002 and 2014.
Haralson became the first to appear in federal court in the case but was not expected to be the last.
“By definition, it takes at least two to conspire, so there will be more,” U.S. Assistant Attorney Michael Hurst said.
According to a bill of information, various items — including foods not on the center’s menu like ribs, shrimp, beef brisket, steak and clam strips — were ordered through the detention center, and then transported directly to the conspirators’ personal residences and businesses “for their personal benefit and use.”
Court documents show Haralson and his court-appointed attorney, Marcus Evans, signed off on a plea agreement Nov. 11. Hurst signed the document yesterday. Starrett is not bound by the arrangement.
Haralson told the court that yesterday had been his final day of employment with the county, and that he no longer had a job.
It was not revealed what sentencing recommendation the U.S. Attorney’s Office had made, but the conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison with an additional three years of parole and a $250,000 fine.
The case is the first brought forward after state and federal investigators asked this summer for expense records connected to the Forrest County jail. Those expenses were submitted to and approved by the Forrest County Board of Supervisors.