Booneville’s Thomas Keenum set for guilty plea

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

BOONEVILLE – Thomas D. Keenum Sr., a longtime Booneville attorney, will plead guilty Aug. 3 to a federal offense.
No other details, including the charges, had been made public as of Thursday.
Keenum served on Northeast Mississippi Community College’s Board of Trustees for 30 years and is a former attorney for the city of Booneville and Prentiss County Board of Supervisors.
U.S. District Court records show the 72-year-old will waive an indictment and plead to an information before Judge W. Allen Pepper Jr. in Greenville. An indictment comes from a grand jury while an information does not.
Although no one will specify the charges, Keenum has been known to be under investigation into a plan to borrow money multiple times against the same pieces of property.
He reportedly persuaded some local attorneys to sign off that properties had no liens against it, which allowed them to be used as collateral for loans.
Ashland attorney Anthony Farese is listed as his legal counsel on the court docket. Clay Joyner, assistant U.S. attorney, is case prosecutor.
Word of Keenum’s financial troubles spread in early March 2009 just after he and his wife, Patsy, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, saying they couldn’t pay the note on their home.
At that point, he estimated his creditors to number 50-99 with assets and liabilities between $1 million and $10 million.
His wife admitted he was under investigation, and District Attorney John Young of Corinth said he’d heard rumblings of a federal probe into multiple bank loans on property. But official word about any investigation was scarce.
Keenum has been a Mississippi lawyer since late 1968, a Jackson School of Law graduate whose practice was more business oriented, and not for courtroom trials. The Mississippi Bar Association lists him as “suspended.”
Records from the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office show he helped incorporate or has been a director of at least 238 businesses. He was an original incorporator for Baptist Memorial Hospital-Booneville Inc.
Legal associates say he may have made $1 million for his interest when the BenchCraft furniture plant at Blue Mountain was sold some years ago.
More than a year ago, when the Daily Journal first reported on Keenum’s troubles, his wife said he was ill with short-term memory problems and hadn’t been to his office since November 2008, when she said colleagues realized something was wrong.
It’s not clear how many banks Keenum owed money, but court records showed interest in his bankruptcy filings from BancorpSouth, Commerce National Bank, First United Bank, Farmers & Merchants Bank, Chase Home Finance LLC and the Mississippi State Tax Commission.
Other state records showed debts to Community Spirit Bank in Red Bay, Ala., and Spirit Bank in Belmont, most collateralized by stock in Cavalier Homes Inc.
Questions linger about the financial jeopardy the other lawyers may have put themselves in by signing the certificates of title.
With Keenum’s bankruptcy, his creditors may or may not get their money in a financial organization plan.
In March 2009, Bob Simpson, president of Investors Mortgage Asset Recovery Co. in California, said the banks could go after the local lawyers.
IMARC touts itself as a leader in mortgage fraud investigations.
“There are legal ramifications” if anyone is deemed at fault for something like this, he said last year.
Their malpractice insurance may be a target to cover the loans they declared to be free and clear, Simpson noted.

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