Rep. Aldridge returns to face criminal charges

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – State Rep. Brian Aldridge is expected to turn himself in to authorities Friday.
Aldridge and his parents face state indictments associated with the plunder of a relative’s estate administered by Aldridge’s father, Louis, while his sister-in-law was ill.
Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson said the Republican legislator was on his way back to Tupelo from a mission trip when officers sought to arrest him Tuesday.
Louis Aldridge, 64, and his former wife, Janice Aldridge, 61, turned themselves in to the sheriff’s department Tuesday and were free on $5,000 bond each.
Both are charged with multiple counts of embezzlement from bank accounts holding the finances of Florence Aldridge, who moved to Tupelo from Florida in 2005 to be cared for by the couple while she suffered severe depression complicated by a bipolar disorder.
The Aldridges divorced late in 2012.
Brian Aldridge was elected to the state Legislature in 2003 and represents District 17 in Lee County.
His legislative wages continue to be garnished to satisfy a chancery court judgment against him in repaying his aunt’s estate.
If convicted on whatever charges will become public after his arrest, he likely will be required to resign the seat.
The charges brought to a Lee County grand jury by the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office stem from a 2008 civil lawsuit by Florence Aldridge seeking to recover her estate of more than $700,000 and family treasures.
In 2003, she granted her durable power of attorney to Louis Aldridge to take care of her affairs while she could not do so for herself. She moved to Tupelo after Louis and Janice promised to take care of her.
Now 68, Florence Aldridge resides in a Pontotoc County nursing home.
Tuesday, June 28 indictments against Louis Aldridge and Janice Aldridge charged them with embezzlement from Florence’s bank accounts. If convicted, they face punishment of up to 10 years in custody, $250,000 in fines or both per count.
Court documents show the Aldridges spent Florence’s money on casinos, cash, cars, vehicle repairs, clothing and numerous expensive trips.
After lengthy proceedings for Florence’s lawsuit against the Aldridges, Chancellor Michael Malski ordered Louis and Janice to repay $552,000 and his former charity, Touched By An Angel Ministries Inc., to pay $140,000 Louis funneled through it.
Later Malski also ordered Brian Aldridge, TBAAM’s chief executive officer, to repay his aunt $218,355 which came from the estate to the charity.
The legislator has appealed that decision to the Mississippi Supreme Court, but Florence’s attorneys counter-sued, claiming Malski’s awards were too low.
patsy.brumfield@journalinc.com