By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – FBI Agent Hal Neilson of Oxford, whose indictment became public Thursday, asked the Department of Justice for whistleblower protection a couple of years ago after accusing the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Oxford of wrongdoing.
The 49-year-old career agent, who is one year shy of retirement, faces five federal counts that he failed to disclose a financial interest in Oxford’s FBI Building since 2004 and filed false statements to a federal agency and agent.
While the indictment was filed in the Northern District of Mississippi, its U.S. Attorney’s Office gave no reason Thursday for why it apparently has withdrawn or “recused itself” from handling the case.
Middle Louisiana U.S. Attorney David R. Dugas announced the charges and assigned assistants Rene Salomon and Rich Bourgeois to prosecute the case.
Neilson’s attorneys, James Tucker of Jackson and Ken Coghlan of Oxford, were not available for comment.
Neilson learned of the indictment as he worked a new assignment in Washington, D.C., where he was transferred early this year. The Daily Journal could not reach him for reaction.
If convicted on all counts, he faces up to 25 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine.
Neilson, the father of four, was supervisory senior resident agent in charge of the Oxford FBI from about 1998 through mid-2008. He earned bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Mississippi.
The 16-page indictment says that in 2004, Nelson joined C&G Partnership, which built and then managed the FBI’s new building at 2109 University Ave. It claims he did not contribute any money for his one-third interest in the partnership and ownership of the facility, which was rented by the U.S. Treasury.
A 2005 appraisal valued the building at $3.1 million.
He also is accused of gaining $50,000 through another partnership, ACM Properties LLC.
The indictment makes reference to Neilson’s partners as JC and DG, assisted by attorney BW. Documents filed with the Mississippi Secretary of State’s Office show ACM was created in 2003 with John N. Covington II of Oxford as a member and Brad Walsh of Oxford its registered agent. C&G included Walsh as agent with Dino Grisanti of Oxford and Covington listed as managers.
Neilson is accused of falsely assuring them he had FBI permission to own an interest in the building, of not informing the FBI that he had a financial interest in its owner-manager and of lying about non-participation in multiple local meetings about new locations for the agency’s offices.
The Louisiana U.S. attorney’s office in Baton Rouge did not respond to a Daily Journal call with questions about the case.
No public information was available about when Neilson will face the charges in court or where.
Neilson reportedly sought whistleblower protection from DOJ a few years ago when he questioned the U.S. Attorney’s Office and U.S. Attorney Jim Greenlee for allegedly seeking information on Muslims throughout the region after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and accused the agency of falsifying evidence in some cases and in entrapment and coercion of witnesses.
What action was taken by the Bush administration Justice Department on the complaints wasn’t known Thursday.
Dugas and Greenlee are 2001 Bush appointees and are expected to be replaced by the Obama administration.
Greenlee’s office did not respond to questions about Neilson’s accusations or about persistent rumors that Greenlee will retire at the end of January.
Neilson also reportedly raised ethics questions about former assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Dawson’s participation in a book about the office’s investigation and prosecution of then-Oxford attorney Richard “Dickie” Scruggs, who was sentenced to prison on two guilty pleas related to judicial bribery indictments.
Before the book was released several weeks ago, a DOJ spokesman said Dawson had retired before he worked on it. Tension between Neilson and the U.S. Attorney’s Office first became public when it was mentioned in the book, although reasons for the problems were not given.
Contact Patsy R. Brumfield at (662) 678-1596 or firstname.lastname@example.org.