Ex-Clerk Indicted On Embezzlement Charges In Stone County

WIGGINS, Miss. (AP) — A former Mississippi circuit court clerk was arrested Monday, days after a grand jury indicted him on four counts of embezzlement.

Jeffrey O'Neal was the Stone County circuit clerk from 2016 to 2020. The state auditor's office said Monday it has written O'Neal to demand repayment of $335,356, including money allegedly misspent, interest and investigative expenses.

Court records on Monday did not immediately list an attorney who could speak for O'Neal.

O’Neal is accused of writing checks to himself instead of to the Stone County general fund and of taking money that should have been returned to crime victims, according to a news release from the auditor's office. It said O’Neal is accused of embezzling more than $200,000 during his term.

If convicted on all counts, O’Neal faces up to 70 years in prison and $16,000 in fines.

The indictment handed down Wednesday did not say how much public money he allegedly took for himself between in 2017 and 2018. The indictment also said O’Neal is accused of spending restitution payments that should have gone to crime victims on personal expenses from 2016 through 2018. It also said he embezzled election payments between Nov. 1, 2017, and Dec. 31, 2018.

The Sun Herald reported that O’Neal came under scrutiny in 2019 after he failed to file multiple annual financial reports that state law requires from chancery and circuit court clerks. The clerks pay themselves from fees their offices generate, and financial reports must list the income and expenses.

In a 2019 interview with the Sun Herald, O’Neal described the reports as “real involved.”

“I should have hired someone to help me with it, and I didn’t," he said. "I’m human and I made a mistake.”