Attorney Keenum pleads to federal bank fraud

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

GREENVILLE – Thomas D. Keenum Sr., who last week asked that his name come off Northeast Mississippi Community College’s stadium, faces up to 30 years in prison for a federal bank fraud scheme.
Tuesday, the 71-year-old Prentiss County attorney admitted his guilt, culminating an investigation going back more than a year.
The longtime Prentiss County attorney also faces up to $1 million in fines and possible restitution, court records show.
Keenum admitted to U.S. District Judge W. Allen Pepper Jr. that he had attorneys file title opinions that Keenum’s 10.5 acres in Alcorn County were free and clear of any “encumbrances.”
But he said it wasn’t true and that he used the fraudulent opinions to get bank loans totaling more than $376,000 as he sought to get himself out of financial difficulties from 2005 until 2007.
The 35-minute hearing Tuesday ended with Keenum’s release on his own promise to return to court when instructed to do so.
“Thomas Keenum is a good man who made a terrible mistake,” said his attorney, Anthony Farese of Ashland. “He found himself in a desperate financial situation and committed these criminal acts.”
The community college named its stadium in 1981 to honor his service. Last week, at his request, the school took his name off the facility and returned it to its former name, Tiger Stadium.
According to prosecutors, he defrauded Peoples Bank in Ripley of $115,102; Community Spirit Bank in Red Bay, Ala., for $126,227; and BancorpSouth in Booneville for $135,447.
In his plea, he admitted guilt in only the BancorpSouth fraud.
Federal prosecutors agreed they will not charge him for anything else arising from this scheme, although the deal doesn’t stop any charges relating to federal taxes.
He likely will not be sentenced for several months while the U.S. Probation Service prepares a report on guidelines for the punishment.
Prosecutors agreed that the attorneys Keenum tricked into signing his title opinions knew nothing of his scheme. Their identities were not made public.
A practicing attorney since 1968, Keenum is likely to be disbarred because of his felony conviction, although the Mississippi Bar’s directory shows that his license is suspended.

Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or patsy.brumfield@djournal.com.