Courts - Mississippi New indictment in inmate release scam

By Holbrook Mohr

Associated Press Writer

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- Two men traveled across the South to swindle the families of federal prisoners out of $90,000 by impersonating DEA agents and promising to get the inmates released early, according to federal court records.

Monterro Paul, a former DEA informant with a long criminal history, and Mark Amos were charged in December in U.S. District Court in Jackson with running the alleged scam on the families of inmates at the federal prison in Yazoo City, court records show.

They have pleaded not guilty.

They were arrested Dec. 4 after allegedly meeting at the Jackson airport with a Texas woman whose husband is in prison in Mississippi. Paul allegedly told an undercover FBI agent at the meeting that he could get prisoners released early through a scheme that involved setting up drug dealers for arrest, according to court records.

A new indictment issued this week provided new details about the alleged scam. It said Paul and Amos took $75,000 from one inmate's family last year and $15,000 from another. The indictment also said they traveled from Louisiana to Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi and Missouri to meet with inmates' families.

Amos' attorney, Hugh W. Tedder, disputed charges in the new indictment related to alleged phone calls.

"I can't speak for Mr. Paul, but as far as Mr. Amos, we are pleading not guilty on these charges," Tedder said. "Based on the information I have, the wire fraud charges are going to be a situation where Amos had nothing to do with the phone calls."

The men also are charged with impersonating an officer and conspiracy.

Paul's attorney, Matt Tyrone, said there will be a new arraignment and the March 1 trial date will be pushed back because of the new indictment. He had no other comment on the case.

Paul's attorney didn't immediately respond Thursday to a message.

The FBI claims the scheme began with Paul claiming he could get inmates' sentences reduced by using a $15,000 down payment to arrange a drug deal. The drug dealers would be arrested and the inmate would be given credit for tipping off authorities, which would result in a sentence reduction.

FBI agent Jeremy Turner testified during a December hearing that Amos' role was to tell the scam victims that Paul had helped him get out of prison the same way. Amos had seven years shaved off his nearly 20-year drug sentence in 2005, but Turner said Paul had nothing to do with it.

Paul also is accused of convincing officials at the federal prison in Yazoo City in central Mississippi that he was a DEA agent and was allowed to speak to inmates by phone. It's not clear what was said in those alleged conversations.

The men were arrested at the Jackson airport when they met with a Texas woman whose husband is incarcerated in Yazoo City. Paul and Amos allegedly took a $15,000 payment from an undercover agent before being arrested.

Paul's criminal record includes counterfeiting and drug charges. Amos has done time on drug charges. Turner said the men met at a federal prison in Texas.

Published: Mon, Feb 22, 2010