Auditor’s office arrests another business owner named in WLBT ‘Pandemic Profits’ investigation
Campaign finance document links business owner with election commissioner
HINDS COUNTY, Miss. (WLBT) - Agents with the State Auditor’s office arrested a business owner believed to be tied to a Hinds County embezzlement scheme involving an elected official and hundreds of thousands in taxpayer dollars, a scheme first uncovered by WLBT in a series of investigations last year.
Undare Kidd and his wife Trafonda Kidd remain in custody in the Raymond Detention Center awaiting an initial appearance after being indicted on fraud and conspiracy.
A news release from the auditor’s office said agents also presented a demand letter for $49,653.52 to both individuals.
Undare Kidd is the third business owner to be arrested in the last three months whose company allegedly received money intended to help make Hinds County elections safer, county and state records show.
“This case shows, once again, that there was allegedly fraudulent spending on the 2020 election in Hinds County. We will continue to work alongside prosecutors to ensure all our 2020 election spending cases are brought to a successful conclusion,” Auditor Shad White said in a news release. “I am thankful to the investigators and prosecutors for their hard work.”
Kidd’s company, Innovative Concepts 50 LLC, got more than $149,000 in contracts, including $62,000 to provide meals to poll workers on Election Day.
Secretary of State records indicate the company was formed on Oct. 7, 2020, two days before Hinds County Election Commissioner Toni Johnson signed a requisition request that led to the firm’s selection.
A campaign finance document obtained by 3 On Your Side suggests Kidd and Johnson knew each other; Kidd was the third person to sign the petition for Johnson to run for office.
Those connections, first revealed by WLBT in its ‘Pandemic Profits’ investigation last August, highlighted companies that got paid money from an election grant who did not appear to be qualified to do the work.
Johnson, who was indicted by a grand jury two months ago on bribery, fraud and conspiracy charges for using her position to award hundreds of thousands of dollars in contracts to businesses owned by Undare Kidd, Cedric Cornelius and Sudie Jones-Teague, has not commented publicly on the allegations since July of last year.
At that time, she said contractors were chosen by the county administrator and purchasing department, though her signature is found on many of the invoices and requisition forms for companies that were hired.
Cornelius’ company received more than $188,000 in contracts from the county for his company, Apogee Group II, for work never performed, according to state investigators.
Their findings also indicate Jones-Teague’s business, New Beginnings LLC, received more than $122,000 for work that did not get done.
Johnson, Cornelius and Jones-Teague are slated to go to trial later this year.
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