Man accused of stealing more than $750,000 from the State of Mississippi

Mississippi legislators hoped a beef processing plant would help bring much needed money to Northern Mississippi.

"It wasn't just for those jobs at that facility, but it would help a lot of farmers, so it was an economic development tool," said Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood.

For that reason, the state invested $50 million to help a man named Richard Hall build the plant. Delays and cost overruns plagued the project. Hood said the plant finally opened in August 2004, only to shut its doors three months later.

"We had a guy that tried to run a company, was incapable, and stole from the taxpayers," he said.

Hood said Richard Hall stole more than $750,000 from the plant, using falsified billing statements and by funneling money to himself and his family. Investigators said Hall got a contractor to pay him more than $173,000 in consultation fees, while his wife got $38,000, and his mother is said to have been paid $44,000.

The discrepancies were found by the office of Mississippi State Auditor Phil Bryant.

"A bill was submitted for reimbursement by the state of Mississippi, and it looked highly unusual," Bryant said. "At that point, we started reviewing other requests for funding reimbursement."

Hall has admitted guilt to diverting funds, and faces more than eight years in prison. While Hall is blamed, court documents also point the finger at state legislators. Before approving the money, legislators were given a Mississippi State University study that showed plan was not feasible.

Hall could not get private funding, so the state gave him more money. Court papers also say the state chose a lesser qualified General Manager for the project.