By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal
ABERDEEN – Former funeral home operators Marie and Michael Salts face new charges they engineered a scheme to acquire a Tupelo home through a straw buyer.
Marie Salts, 50, waived a personal appearance Wednesday in federal court and pleaded not guilty to the two-count indictment. She is free on $5,000 bond.
Her husband, Michael Salts, 61, continues serving a 15-year state sentence.
In 2003, they were convicted in Prentiss County on three felony counts of embezzlement of pre-need burial policy premiums and one misdemeanor count through their funeral home in Booneville. She was sentenced to two consecutive five-year sentences, fined $11,000 and ordered to pay $692 in restitution. Her husband received the same sentence, except without the possibility of parole because he was labeled a habitual offender due to prior convictions.
But in March 2010, the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of Mississippi ordered their convictions thrown out, agreeing the pair was unconstitutionally convicted.
After that ruling and subsequent state appeal, Marie Salts’ house arrest was lifted. However, the case remains with the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans about whether the charges should be vacated.
In February, Marie Salts was charged with five counts of animal cruelty after Prentiss County authorities discovered her five horses in various stages of starvation. Last week in Prentiss County Justice Court, she pleaded guilty to DUI and the cruelty charges and was sentenced to two 12-month supervised probations, to run at the same time, and fined a total of $2,236.50.
The new federal indictment, dated Sept. 21 but just made public, charges them with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud.
The government claims that after the couple’s 1111 Belledeer Drive home in Tupelo burned to the ground, they wanted to buy one priced about $438,125 at 2832 Edinburgh Park Lane, but they couldn’t get financing.
So, the indictment states, they used Roy Clark, who isn’t charged, to apply for the loan and buy the house on their behalf. Clark reportedly had worked for the Saltses at their Fred Reds Steaks restaurant.
On his loan application, he reportedly submitted a W-2 stating he earned $104,000 in 2006, and it allegedly was verified by Marie Salts.
The government says the Saltses lived in the house after its purchase about Jan. 25, 2008, until they were jailed later that year. Clark reportedly was left holding the bag on the loan closing and loan payments.
If convicted on the new charges, they each face up to 40 years in prison and $500,000 in fines.