Statement of United States Attorney Todd Gee Regarding the Arrests in East Mississippi of over 30 Persons for Drug Trafficking, Illegal Firearms Possession, and Other Crimes
Natchez, Miss. – Three individuals were sentenced for their respective roles in a scheme to steal houses from the United States Department of Agriculture.
Barry Martin, 47, of Georgia was sentenced to 46 months in prison; Fiesta Kagler, 59, of Georgia, was sentenced to 46 months in prison; and Ella Martin, 69, of Jayess, Mississippi, a former USDA employee, was sentenced to 35 months in prison.
According to court documents, the defendants conspired to identify and steal USDA-mortgaged properties. The targeted properties were mortgaged through the Brookhaven office of USDA Rural Development, an agency which helps rural residents buy or rent safe, affordable housing, especially low and very low income individuals. As an employee of that office, Ella Martin had access to a list of abandoned, foreclosed, nearly-foreclosed, or similarly distressed USDA-mortgaged properties and would create fraudulent warranty deeds designed to convey ownership of those properties to her co-conspirators and others. The fraudulent deeds included forged signatures from former homeowners, including at least one deceased individual. The fraudulent deeds were then filed in Chancery Courts around Mississippi with the intent to deprive the actual owners of the use and benefit of the properties and to deprive the United States Government of the actual value of the properties.
All three defendants will be required to pay restitution, which will be determined at a separate hearing.
U.S. Attorney Todd W. Gee and Special Agent in Charge Dax Roberson of the USDA Office of the Inspector General (OIG) made the announcement.
The USDA OIG and the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigated the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly T. Purdie prosecuted the case.