UPDATE: Thomas Keenum gets prison time in federal bank fraud case

By Patsy R. Brumfield/NEMS Daily Journal

GREENVILLE – Former Booneville attorney Thomas Keenum was sentenced today to 22 months in prison for bank fraud.

U.S. District Judge W. Allen Pepper Jr. presided at the hearing in Greenville.

Keenum, 73, pleaded guilty to one federal count in August 2010 but his sentencing was delayed reportedly by difficulties in determining the amount of fraudulent loans he made through numerous banks.

The hearing’s minutes show he was sentenced during a 35-minute hearing this morning, with a Feb. 27 prison report date. He will be allowed to turn himself in by 2 p.m.

He remains free on bond until then. The U.S. Bureau of Prisons will decide which prison he will enter.

As it played out, the case was complicated by the personal bankruptcy filed by Keenum and his wife around the time he was confronted with the federal charge.

Prosecutors accused Keenum of a scheme to defraud BancorpSouth Bank in Booneville by telling bank officials that certain real property he owned by free and clear of any obligations.

The formal charge against him states that he convinced local attorneys that he’d already done a title search of the property, which he said was true and correct. The attorneys then signed the title opinions without conducting any independent searches.

If any action was taken against those attorneys, it has not been made public.

The land in question was 10.5 acres Keenum owned in Alcorn County. First he borrowed $115,102 from Peoples Bank in Ripley, pledging the land as collateral. Later, he used it for a loan of $126,227 from Community Spirit Bank in Red Bay, Ala., and again for $135,447 from BancorpSouth in Booneville. He also obtained money from Community Spirit Bank by pledging as collateral fraudulent invoices from a company he owned.

The scheme is alleged to have occurred from June 2005 until November 2008.

Without any mitigating factors, he faced up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine, plus restitution. He also faced forfeiture of any assets he derived from the fraud.

Today, his attorney, Tony Farese of Ashland, said Pepper granted prosecutors’ request to reduce Keenum’s possible sentence from a 33-41-month range because of his “substantial” cooperation with the government.

The Mississippi Supreme Court disbarred Keenum last May after he turned in his Notice of Irrevocable Resignation from the state bar.

Read more details in Saturday’s Daily Journal.