TUPELO – State Rep. Brian Aldridge and his parents of Tupelo will be among Lee County defendants July 19 to hear formal charges brought against them by the grand jury.
Scores of other defendants will appear that day before Circuit Judge Thomas Gardner III to enter pleas of guilty or not guilty.
The Aldridges were indicted June 28, accused of embezzlement from the estate of Florence Aldridge, the widow of the brother of Brian’s father, Louis.
Louis Aldridge was given her power of attorney while she was ill. He and his then-wife Janice Aldridge cared for the woman, but when she recovered she discovered her $700,000 estate was gone.
Louis Aldridge, 64, and Janice Aldridge, 61, divorced last November.
While the senior Aldridges have made no public comment, Brian Aldridge’s attorney, T.K. Moffett of Tupelo, insists his client is innocent.
Each Aldridge is free on $5,000 bond after voluntarily appearing at the Lee County Sheriff’s Office week before last, when their indictments became public.
The Mississippi Attorney General’s Public Integrity Division, which brought the case to the grand jury, accuses them of different unlawful actions.
During the time in question, the three Aldridges operated Touched By An Angel Ministries Inc., a non-profit camp for disabled youths and adults, in west Lee County.
The senior Aldridges are charged under the same Mississippi statute, Section 97-23-19, which relates to the fraudulent loss of a possession valued at $500 or more by “a trustee” or “agent” entrusted to take care of the property.
Louis Aldridge is accused of three counts – the first of taking funds for his own use from Feb. 1 until Oct. 15, 2005 from a Wachovia Bank account; the second from Sept. 20, 2006 until Feb. 25, 2007 from AmSouth Bank; and the third from Feb. 15 to Nov. 15, 2005 from her Bank of America account.
Janice Aldridge is accused of two counts – the first of taking funds for her own use on May 27, 2005 from a Wachovia Bank account; and the second, from Feb. 1, 2006 to July 5, 2007 from AmSouth Bank.
Records presented in a 2008 civil lawsuit by Florence Aldridge against them show $552,212.99 total disbursements from her accounts.
If convicted on those charges, Louis Aldridge and Janice Aldridge face up to 10 years in prison, a $25,000 fine or both per count.
They declared bankruptcy shortly after the civil trial began in August 2011.
As for 36-year-old Brian Aldridge, a legislator for House District 17, he is accused on one count, which is listed on his indictment as “embezzlement” but in Section 97-17-41 is termed “grand larceny.”
The law makes it a felony to take the personal property of another valued at $500 or more without the owner’s permission. Conviction calls for imprisonment “in the Penitentiary” not more than 10 years, a fine of $10,000 or both. He likely would be required to resign from office.
His indictment accuses him of taking money from his aunt’s Bank of America account for his own use “with the intent to permanently deprive her” of it.
In December 2011, Chancellor Michael Malski ordered Louis Aldridge and Janice Aldridge to repay Florence more than $552,000. Later he ordered Brian, as chief executive officer of Touched By An Angel Ministries Inc., to repay $218,355. His legislative salary is being garnished to satisfy that order, although he’s appealed it to the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Florence Aldridge’s attorneys counter-sued, saying Malski’s judgment was too low.
More than 400 cases on the docket will be called as the August term of court begins July 29.
The 1st Circuit District’s four judges preside in a rotation across the term’s five weeks.