By David Howell
OXFORD – Failed beef plant operator Richard Hall was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Neal Biggers Jr. to eight years imprisonment last Friday. Hall was also ordered to pay more than a half million in restitution and given five years probation after his release.
Hall was taken into custody, following the hearing, but on Monday his lawyer, Mike Waits, filed a motion for Hall to be temporarily released from custody.
Judge Biggers granted the request, allowing Hall to wind-up business affairs for a hide-curing plant headquartered in Louisville, Ky. where he had been employed since the closing of the beef plant.
Hall pled guilty in Jan. 2006, and had been out on a $100,000 unsecured bond since that time.
Court documents show that he had also operated a trucking brokerage business – owned by Hall and his wife – following the beef plant debacle. He had been working in Texas and Tennessee with the two operations.
In the order granted Monday, Hall will remain free until he is ordered to report to the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ designated place for his incarceration.
Hall was sentenced for three counts of mail fraud, money laundering, and one count of participating in a “scheme to defraud by mail and wire.” The sentences will run concurrently.
The plant operated for three months before closing in November, 2004, ultimately costing state taxpayers $55 million.
During the sentencing Friday, Judge Biggers said that prosecutors may indict another party if that person does not accept a plea agreement. The identity of other party who may be facing these charges was not revealed.
Weeks earlier, Water Valley contractor Sean Carothers was also sentenced to 21 months in prison for giving Hall a one percent consulting fee from the total project cost and attempting to hide these payments. Carothers’ company initially held the contract to build the facility.
Like Carothers, Hall’s sentence could be reduced if he cooperates with the ongoing investigation.
Following the plant closure, Community Bank foreclosed on a lease – which entailed 33 acres and the actual building – held as collateral on the facility. This foreclosure was in February, 2005.
Following the foreclosure, the bank had been actively recruiting a company to utilize the facility.
Earlier this summer, with the building sitting empty more than two years, Community Bank closed a deal with Windsor Foods, a food processing company, to purchase the lease on the Oakland facility. Windsor officials have announced that they are working toward an early 2008 opening and will initially employee more than 200 workers.
While the beef plant cost state taxpayers millions of dollars, Yalobusha County taxpayers have fared much better. The county owns the land and the infrastructure surrounding the facility.
The county and Coffeeville School District have also collected just under a half a million dollars, paid by Community Bank, for personal and real taxes on the building and equipment in the last two years.