GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) — A former Mississippi mayor was sentenced Thursday to two years and six months in federal prison and his wife was sentenced to probation, months after each pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the federal government.
Mario King, a Democrat, was elected Moss Point mayor in 2017. He resigned in February after he and his wife, Natasha R. King, each pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiring to defraud the federal government.
Prosecutors said the couple raised money for mental health programs in schools but spent it on themselves for expenses that included car payments and the purchase of a pet dog.
Each was originally charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and 13 counts of aiding and abetting wire fraud. Court records show prosecutors dropped the 13 aiding-and-abetting charges Thursday.
Natasha King’s plea agreement included a recommended sentence of probation. The Sun Herald reported that her attorney, Cameron McCormick, described her as a follower. U.S. District Judge Sul Ozerden agreed Natasha King likely would not have faced a felony charge if she had not participated in her husband’s actions.
Mario King had faced up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Court records show Ozerden set Mario King’s 30-month prison sentence and ordered him to pay an $8,000 fine and the couple to pay about $6,900 in restitution.
A presentencing report from federal authorities said Mario King had allegedly committed mortgage fraud in Texas after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud in Mississippi, according to court records filed in June.
Ozerden said in court Thursday that said King’s actions in Texas seemed to mirror the type of scheme in Mississippi, the Sun Herald reported. The Kings have been living in Texas since they pleaded guilty to the federal charges in Mississippi.
Mario King must report to prison within two months, WLOX-TV reported.
Moss Point has a population of about 13,350. It is in coastal Jackson County, near the Alabama state line. The city has a poverty rate of about 22%, according to the census.