JACKSON – A former cemetery owner is now in the custody of the Attorney General’s office, facing allegations that he violated state law concerning accounting and reporting requirements.
Investigators with the Attorney General’s Office recently tracked down Don Middleton, 65, in Pennsylvania after an exhaustive search. Middleton was picked up in Pennsylvania at the request of the Mississippi Attorney General.
Middleton has been extradited to Mississippi by investigators with the Public Integrity Division of the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office and is currently being held in the Calhoun County jail. Middleton faces a total of six counts in Calhoun, Prentiss and Jones Counties for violating Mississippi Code Section 41-43-38. He is the former owner of Sunset Gardens Cemetery in Laurel, Pinecrest Memorial Park in Calhoun County, Prentiss Memorial Gardens in Baldwyn and Liberty Memorial Gardens in Booneville.
The charges against Middleton, by law, are classified as misdemeanors. If convicted, he faces a fine of up to $1,000, jail time of up to one year, or both, for each of the counts. Civil charges were filed in January of 2008 and subsequent criminal charges were filed in May and June of 2008.
The criminal charges against Middleton are separate from an ongoing civil action filed by this office based on the same facts. The Attorney General has sought relief on behalf of the State for violations of the Mississippi Consumer Protection Act after receiving complaints from victims and then-Secretary of State Eric Clark starting in late 2007. The legal action was initiated in three counties, and was recently consolidated into one action in Prentiss County Chancery Court. The consolidated action is pending before Chancellor John A. Hatcher.
As part of the legal action, the Attorney General requested that a receiver be appointed to oversee and manage the operations of the cemeteries, as well as recover money due to victims. Chancellor Hatcher granted the Attorney General’s request, naming the Secretary of State’s office as receiver. The Secretary of State, in turn, has designated Phillip Wedgeworth to fulfill these duties. Once the receiver has concluded the court-ordered review, the Consumer Protection Division will proceed to conclude the action.
“We are pleased that both the criminal and civil actions brought by our office are moving forward after months of diligent work by our attorneys and investigators,” said Attorney General Jim Hood.
As with all cases, the charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
Miss. Attorney General Press Release