Kevin Edwards
Kevin Edwards
A former vice chief of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and his wife have been indicted on federal charges ranging from embezzlement to conspiracy in separate schemes to defraud the Tribe, U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst announced on Monday.

The Leake County couple has been arraigned on a superseding indictment for theft/embezzlement, wire fraud, money laundering conspiracy and false statements to a bank in separate schemes to defraud the Tribal government with false claims for travel reimbursement payments and to improperly influence a federally-insured bank, officials said.

They are charged and identified as follows:

• Former Vice Chief Kevin Edwards, 48, of Walnut Grove, one count of theft, two counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, two counts of money laundering, and three counts of false statements to a bank.

• Sheena A. Edwards, 45, of Walnut Grove, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, two counts of money laundering, and one count of false statements to a bank.

Kevin Edwards’ attorney Merrida Coxwell of Jackson had no comment.

The indictments were made public Monday by Hurst and Michelle A. Sutphin, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Mississippi.

A superseding indictment returned by a federal grand jury on Sept. 10 charges the former Tribal Council member and his wife with defrauding the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, as well as misleading a federally insured bank with intent to obtain loans. 

Between March 2015 and June 2017, the husband and wife are alleged to have forged hotel bills and receipts, and submitted those documents to the Tribal government in claims for reimbursement for official business travel by Kevin Edwards. 

Kevin Edwards is a former member of the Tribal Council who left office in June 2017. After receiving the unlawful payments from the Tribal government, the two defendants cashed and transferred the payments to multiple bank accounts and paid off personal loans in the name of Sheena Edwards,  it is alleged. 

In addition, both defendants allegedly made false statements on multiple personal loan applications to a local bank, inflating Kevin Edwards’s salary and claiming Kevin Edwards was employed by the Tribe after he had left office and was not so employed.

Kevin Edwards appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda Anderson for arraignment on Oct. 4. Sheena Edwards appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge Linda Anderson for arraignment on Sept. 25, 2019.

Kevin Edwards is charged with one count of theft or embezzlement from a Tribal organization, which carries a maximum sentence of imprisonment of five years. 

In addition, Kevin Edwards is charged with two counts of wire fraud, which charges carry a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years. Each count also can merit a fine of up to $250,000 and up to three years of supervised release.

Both Kevin and Sheena Edwards face charges of conspiracy to launder money and substantive acts of money laundering, which carries a maximum penalty of twenty years imprisonment for each count; and charges of false statements to a bank, which carries a maximum penalty of 30 years for each count. 

Each of those counts also can merit a fine of up to $250,000 and up to five years of supervised release.

The case is set for trial before United States District Judge Henry T. Wingate on Nov. 25 in Jackson.

Hurst commended the work of the special agents with the FBI’s Jackson Division who investigated the case. The Leake County Sheriff’s Office assisted with the arrests. 

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Theodore Cooperstein.