ABERDEEN, Miss. (WTVA) - Aberdeen Mayor Maurice Howard pleaded guilty on Monday to embezzlement.
As a result, he will be removed from office
A grand jury indicted the mayor on five counts of embezzlement in October 2019.
Court documents pointed to five separate trips, ranging from April 2017 to September 2017, to events and conferences in Jackson, Michigan, Atlanta and Alabama.
He was accused of converting the trip money he received from the City of Aberdeen to his own use and not returning the money to the city.
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The total amounted to nearly $3,500.
According to the indictment, Howard did not attend the events and conferences.
Along with removal from office, he received a suspended prison sentence and must repay $8,000.
State Auditor Shad White issued the following statement Monday morning.
“I am pleased this morning that Mr. Howard, who stole from the people of Aberdeen, has been removed from office and has pleaded guilty to a felony. When a politician takes public money for their own benefit and lies about it, it’s important to remember there are victims. The victims are the taxpayers and people of the city. I’m grateful for the work of the district attorney’s office and my investigators for bringing this case to a conclusion.”
Howard won a second term as mayor in the summer of 2020.
"My lawyer really didn't feel that I would get a fair trial in Monroe County,” Howard said. “The reality is we wanted to move the case to another city that really didn't know anything about me. It’s going to be absolutely impossible to find 12 jurors in Monroe County who do not know Aberdeen mayor Maurice Howard."
The now-former mayor said the plea deal will allow him the freedom to continue his businesses and his church preaching.
Editor's Note: Howard's quote added at 4:22 p.m. on Feb. 1, 2021.