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Federal Court sets trial date for John Coleman in Express Grain collapse indictment; potential penalties disclosed

Wednesday, December 7, 2022, 5:08 pm News Flash Archive

Federal Judge Michael Mills has set January 30, 2023 as the trial date for John Coleman. The trial is scheduled to be held at the federal building in Oxford.

Coleman, the former president of bankrupt Express Grain, was arrested twice yesterday, on state and federal charges involving EG's collapse. He pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Coleman is represented by John Colette of Jackson, a criminal defense attorney.

The federal charges, six counts of wire fraud, each carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000.

The state charges include five counts of making fraudulent statements, each of which carry a maximum prison sentence of five years, and a maximum fine of $10,000.

Additionally, the state charges include one count of obtaining a thing of value with intent to defraud, which carries a maximum prison sentence of ten years and a maximum fine of $10,000.

Both state and federal indictments include charges against Coleman for sending an email with intent to defraud to the farmers the day before EG filed for bankruptcy. In the email, Coleman claimed the company was financially sound and encouraged the farmers to deliver their grain to EG. The email may be seen here: September 28, 2021 email from EG/John Coleman to Farmers

The following state laws are at play in the state charges against Coleman:

97-7-10. Fraudulent statements and representations.

(1) Whoever, with intent to defraud the state or any department, agency, office, board, commission, county, municipality or other subdivision of state or local government, knowingly and willfully falsifies, conceals or covers up by trick, scheme or device a material fact, or makes any false, fictitious or fraudulent statements or representations, or makes or uses any false writing or document knowing the same to contain any false, fictitious or fraudulent statement or entry, shall, upon conviction, be punished by a fine of not more than Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000.00) or by imprisonment for not more than five (5) years, or by both such fine and imprisonment.

(2) This section shall not prohibit the prosecution under any other criminal statute of the state.

And:

97-19-39. Obtaining signature or thing of value with intent to defraud.

(1) Every person who, with intent to cheat or defraud another, shall designedly, by color of any false token or writing, or by another false pretense, obtain the signature of any person to any written instrument, or obtain from any person any money, personal property, or valuable thing, with a value of less than Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00), upon conviction thereof, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and punished by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six (6) months, and by fine not exceeding One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00).

(2) Every person, who with intent to cheat or defraud another, shall designedly, by color of any false token or writing, or by another false pretense, obtain the signature of any person to any written instrument, or obtain from any person any money, personal property, or valuable thing, with a value of Five Hundred Dollars ($500.00) or more, upon conviction thereof shall be guilty of a felony and punished by imprisonment in the State Penitentiary not exceeding ten (10) years, and by a fine not exceeding Ten Thousand Dollars ($10,000.00).

It appears that all the counts charged so far against Coleman in both state and federal court are based upon Coleman's sending emails that contained allegedly fraudulent documents or false statements by Mr. Coleman. Under federal law, sending such fraudulent emails is called "wire fraud," which harkens back to the days when telegrams and phone calls were carried over copper wires across state lines.

The federal charges largely track the state court charges relating to Mr. Coleman's alleged falsification of audit reports submitted to the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce. The state indictment added a count for defrauding the Mississippi Development Authority.

Both criminal cases also accuse Coleman of defrauding the farmers who delivered their grain but were never paid.

The federal indictment summarized Coleman's alleged conduct this way:

JOHN R. COLEMAN, defendant, did devise and intend to devise a scheme to defraud the Farmer Victims, UMB Bank, and the Mississippi State Board of Agriculture, and to obtain money by means of false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises; that is, JOHN R. COLEMAN intentionally misled farmers, lenders and the Mississippi State Board of Agriculture to induce them to deliver grain to Express Grain, lend money to Express Grain and provide Express Grain with warehouse licenses despite COLEMAN'S direct knowledge that Express Grain was in severe financial distress. COLEMAN'S fraud caused widespread financial hardship and suffering throughout the Mississippi Delta and elsewhere.

But the federal indictment also includes two additional counts of wire fraud, accusing Coleman of defrauding UMB Bank, EG's largest creditor, by emailing the bank falsified audit reports and false grain inventory figures.

See our previous reporting here:

John Coleman arrested, indicted by Leflore County Grand Jury in Express Grain collapse

Express Grain president John Coleman arrested by the FBI, indicted on multiple federal counts of wire fraud

The January 30 trial date will no doubt slip into the future as the prosecutors and defense lawyers wrangle over discovery disputes, designation of experts, and the need for more time to gather evidence and witnesses.


To read all our coverage of the Express Grain bankruptcy case, see here: Index of Express Grain articles

John Pittman Hey
The Taxpayers Channel

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