Tenn. man, pivotal in beef plant scheme, released from prison

OAKLAND — A key figure in Mississippi’s beef plant scandal has been placed on supervised release and freed from prison.

Richard Hall, of Clarksville, Tenn., was sentenced to eight years in Mississippi prison on three counts of wire fraud for his role in the failure of the plant. He entered state prison in May 2012 after he was released from federal prison. He was placed on supervised earned release on July 6, according to the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

The beef plant, backed by the Mississippi Legislature and two state agencies, ran into trouble soon after Hall was given millions for the project in Oakland.

Hall, now 53, pleaded guilty to keeping $751,000 in public and corporate funds for himself during the debacle.

His attorney, John Husser of Rome, Ga., tells the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal that Hall will be supervised by the Yalobusha County Field Office.

The supervised earned release program is limited to first-time, non-violent offenders. MDOC spokeswoman Grace Fisher said Hall must serve his supervision within the state. If he violates any conditions, he must serve the remainder of his sentence in prison. Hall’s tentative discharge date is Aug. 29, 2014, and the maximum date is Sept. 23, 2015, she said.

The beef plant opened in Oakland in August 2004 but lasted less than three months. In January 2005, Hall defaulted on a $21-million loan to Community Bank and the project went into foreclosure.

In June 2005, the state paid the bank on its guaranteed $34 million.

In 2012, the state of Mississippi settled a lawsuit against the firms that built the financially disastrous beef plant. The state recovered $3,965,000 from an insurer for Georgia’s Facility Group, which was hired to oversee construction of the plant. Of that amount, $65,000 went to an unpaid conveyor belt contractor, leaving $3.9 million for the state.

Federal, state and local subsidies for the project totaled at least $50 million, including more than $40 million in state loan guarantees. The plant operated only three months, and never reached its full capacity, before the business closed in 2004, laying off 400 people.

Windsor Quality Foods, a frozen-foods firm, bought the plant and now employs 300 people.

The state paid the Facility Group $6.57 million either directly or indirectly. The company was hired to manage construction of the plant, which was going to slaughter and butcher cattle, after Hall ran into trouble. At least another $43 million in federal, state and local aid was provided to the project, although some accountings put the total figure much higher.

After a federal investigation, three Facility Group leaders — Robert L. Moultrie, Nixon E. Cawood and Sean Carothers — went to prison. Mississippi earlier recovered $550,000 from the federal case.

 

Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal

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