State indicts Aldridges with embezzling from relative’s estate

By PATSY R. BRUMFIELD/Daily Journal

5:00 UPDATE
TUPELO – State Rep. Brian Aldridge of Tupelo is reportedly on his way back to Lee County from an out-of-state trip, and law officials expect him to turn himself in on Wednesday in answer to an embezzlement indictment.
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3:35 P.M. UPDATE
TUPELO – Louis Aldridge of Tupelo, father of state Rep. Brian Aldridge, turned himself in to authorities this afternoon in response to his indictment on embezzlement charges.
At the same time, law enforcement continued to look for the legislator to inform him of the charges against him, although officials said they expected him to appear later today.
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EARLIER POST
TUPELO – State Rep. Brian Aldridge and his parents stand indicted on criminal embezzlement charges associated with money lost from a relative’s estate.
Aldridge, a Republican, represents House District 17 in Lee County.
If convicted, he must resign from office.
His parents, Louis Aldridge and Janice Aldridge, now divorced, also are charged with embezzlement.
Convictions for all three of them could mean imprisonment and financial penalties.
Mrs. Aldridge apparently turned herself in to the Lee County Sheriff’s Office this morning, with arrests of the men expected soon. Bond for each is set at $5,000.
The case is believed to have been brought recently by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood’s office to a Lee County grand jury. The June 28 indictments became public with their arrests today.
The Aldridges could not yet be reached for comment.
The charges stem from a 2008 lawsuit filed against the Aldridges by Florence Aldridge, the widow of Louis’ brother. She came to Tupelo in 2005 after her husband’s death after Louis and Janice promised to care for her while she suffered deep depression complicated by bipolar disorder.
From 2003 to mid-2008, she granted Louis durable power of attorney to look after her assets while she could not.
But in 2008, she discovered all her nearly $700,000 assets and family treasures were gone. Tupelo attorneys Rhett and Frank Russell took up her case in chancery court.
Today, 68-year-old Florence Aldridge is virtually destitute – living in a Pontotoc County nursing home. Until her health failed again, she lived in Tupelo and taught piano lessons.
After lengthy legal proceedings in 2011, Chancellor Michael Malski termed Louis Aldridge’s behavior “monumental impropriety and malfeasance” and ordered him to repay Florence $552,000. He also ordered his former charity, Touched By An Angel Ministries Inc., to come up with $140,000 Louis directed to it while he held Florence’s power of attorney.
Brian Aldridge is chief executive officer of the charity, which operated a camp for disabled children and adults. His father once was its chief financial officer.
While Malski initially cleared Brian of fiduciary responsibility to his aunt, he sharply chided him for his lack of attention to the charity’s finances, which were under Louis’ control until late 2011.
In May 2012, though, Malski ordered Brian Aldridge to repay his aunt $218,355 plundered from his aunt’s estate.
The judge said in his court order that even though Brian was not personally liable for her loss by his father, Brian was legally responsible for the charity through which Louis Aldridge funneled some of her money.
Brian Aldridge and TBBAM Inc. appealed the decisions to the Mississippi Supreme Court, but no rulings have come from there yet. He also sought a new trial over his aunt’s estate.
The charity established in 1996 was dissolved legally in September 2012.
A parallel for-profit catering business, TBAAM Enterprises Inc., was established by Louis Aldridge in 2002 and was dissolved in 2004 although Aldridge continued to use it to handle funds from his sister-in-law’s estate and any financial activity associated with the charity.
In August 2011, Louis and Janice Aldridge filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection. They divorced in November 2012, citing irreconcilable differences.
The bankruptcy case was closed in April 2013 with $428,950 in claims discharged without payment, the court trustee reported.
Court documents in the civil lawsuit showed the Aldridges spent Florence’s money on cash, cars, vehicle repairs, clothing, and numerous trips including to Texas and Hawaii. One of those trips was Brian Aldridge’s honeymoon.
• Come back for updates. Read more in Wednesday’s Daily Journal.