County supervisor arrested for embezzlement of public funds

LAUREL, Mississippi (AP) – A county supervisor in southeast Mississippi is accused of illegally using a government-owned car and cell phone to operate his cosmetics business.

Jones County District Five Supervisor Travares Comegys was arrested Monday after being indicted by a grand jury on embezzlement charges, State Auditor Shad White said in a press release.

Comegys also received a formal notice of $ 5,719.24 from the auditor’s office.

Comegys is accused of embezzling $ 2,794.05, according to court records. The remainder of the bill represents $ 131.14 in interest and investigative costs incurred by the state auditor’s office for a total of an additional $ 2,794.05.

Speaking to The Associated Press, Comegys attorney Thomas Fortner said on Tuesday that he did not believe the auditor could prove his client had done anything wrong.

“I don’t think he can support that,” he said of White. “I think he’s just making allegations to get his name published in the newspaper.”

“It’s all about the headlines from their perspective,” he continued. “For us, it’s about protecting the reputation and character of our customers.

State Auditor spokesman Logan Reeves said on Tuesday that Fortner was “free to make this argument before a judge in court.”

Comegys is accused of using a county-issued vehicle and cell phone to operate its cosmetics business from July 2020 to April 2021, according to the auditor’s office. He is said to have used the vehicle to travel to several salons and barber shops outside of Jones County and to the New Orleans airport.

Investigators from the auditor’s office say Comegys used his county-owned cell phone “almost exclusively” to operate his personal business.

“The use of taxpayer resources or property for your personal benefit is not permitted,” White said in his statement. “This message should be clear to all elected officials in the state by now.”

Fortner said it should be noted that the auditor’s office is demanding twice as much money as the auditor claims his client is accused of embezzlement.

“I’m sure the listener is going to say publicly that every penny of public money that is poorly spent is important and I don’t disagree with them,” he said. “It appears that, on the whole, the state auditor’s investigators’ time would be better spent chasing significant unnecessary expenses than an allegation of that fairly small amount.

“But quite honestly, it doesn’t really matter to me,” he continued. “We’re going to try this case. I don’t think the auditor can prove that Mr. Comegy did anything wrong.”

Reeves said investigative costs – calculated using the actual time it takes for investigators in the state auditor’s office to work on a case – can exceed what they ask for in letters of formal notice, particularly for small amounts. Office policy is not to charge people more for investigative costs than they are accused of abusing.

If convicted on all counts, Comegys faces up to 10 years in prison and an additional $ 5,000 in fines.

The case will be continued by Jones County District Attorney Anthony Buckley.

A bond of $ 100,000 covers Comegys’ time as a member of the Jones County Supervisory Board. Bonds are similar to insurance designed to protect taxpayers from corruption. Comegys would remain liable for the entire claim, in addition to criminal proceedings.


Leah Willingham is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative corps. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.

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