Today, State Auditor Shad White announced that special agents from his office arrested Sudie Jones-Teague after she was charged with multiple counts by a Hinds County grand jury. Special agents also served her with a demand letter showing that she owes Hinds County taxpayers nearly $150,000. The amount of the claim includes interest and investigation costs. The arrest is part of a larger alleged scheme also involving Hinds County Election Commissioner Toni Johnson and businessman Cedric Cornelius, both of whom were arrested by special agents from the Auditor General’s Office. state last week.
“We are committed to stopping fraud like this,” Auditor White said. “If you have any information about this case or others, please call the Auditor’s Office at 1-800-321-1275.”
Sudie Jones-Teague was arrested for fraud, conspiracy and bribery. She is accused of working with Cedric Cornelius and Toni Johnson to get New Beginnings – her own company – illegitimately approved as a supplier for Hinds County and paid for without actually performing any work. New Beginnings is registered as a “hair and fashion” business, but was paid to perform cleaning and catering services. A demand letter served on Jones-Teague upon her arrest shows that she owes Hinds County taxpayers $143,459.32.
Jones-Teague turned herself in to special agents at the Hinds County Detention Center in Raymond earlier today. The court is responsible for setting the amount of the bond.
If convicted on all counts, Jones-Teague faces many years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines. All persons arrested by the Mississippi State Auditor’s Office are presumed innocent until proven guilty in court. The case will be prosecuted by Hinds County District Attorney Jody Owens’ office.
No bond covers any of Jones-Teague’s alleged crimes. Bonds are similar to insurance designed to protect taxpayers against corruption. It will remain liable for the full amount of the claim in addition to criminal proceedings.
Special agents from the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor arrested Toni Johnson and Cedric Cornelius last week after the two were charged with fraud, embezzlement and corruption. Johnson allegedly used his position as a member of the Hinds County Election Commission (HCEC) to hijack two 85-inch televisions and personal protective equipment (PPE). Cornelius is accused of working with Toni Johnson to get her company paid for cleaning services, COVID-19 testing and audits of voting machines, though no work was actually done. Johnson’s demand letter shows she owes taxpayers $25,893.8. Cornelius received a formal notice of $216,227.28. These amounts also include interest and investigation costs.
Part of the more than $325,000 allegedly earned by these three individuals came from $1.9 million in grants awarded to Hinds County by the Center for Tech and Civic Life (CTCL), a nonprofit organization funded by the Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. This organization gave more than $350 million to election offices across the country during the 2020 election season according to the Wall Street Journal.
Correction: The story above originally included a photo that was mistakenly submitted by the Office of the State Auditor. The image has been corrected.