- Associated Press - Thursday, March 6, 2014

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - The former director of a nonprofit housing agency has been sentenced to a year’s probation and ordered to pay $89,400 in restitution.

Linda Balducci of Shelby pleaded guilty last year to one count of conspiracy to embezzle money. Court documents show she was sentenced in Feb. 28 in U.S. District Court in Oxford.

The Bolivar Commercial reports (https://bit.ly/1hPIwz2 ) that federal prosecutors dismissed two other counts.

She was sentenced to a year’s probation and order to pay restitution of $89,400.

Southeastern Development Opportunities Inc. was a nonprofit organization founded by Balducci in April of 1993. Over the years, the organization obtained state and federal grants used to construct housing for low-income residents in the region.

Balducci and co-defendant Connie Lewis were indicted in 2012 by a federal grand jury on three counts of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and embezzlement of public funds.

Prosecutors said Jimmy Stokes, owner of Stokes Construction Co., paid $90,000 in kickbacks to Balducci.

Prosecutors said the kickbacks came through sham payments of rent worth $59,400 to the organization and the purchase of three acres in Bolivar County from Balducci for $30,000. In exchange, prosecutors said Balducci approved $358,500 in invoices that Stokes submitted to dig a drainage ditch for an apartment complex in Isola when the work only cost $20,000.

Stokes was indicted on the bribery charges. He pleaded guilty in 2009 to lying to an FBI agent about bribing a bank teller to deposit $1 million in bogus checks in 2004. Stokes was ordered to serve 10 months in federal prison.

Lewis is alleged to have approved invoices for federally-subsidized apartment complexes that Stokes was building in Isola, Batesville, Houston, Hollandale and Itta Bena from 2006 through 2008, when she knew Stokes was inflating the invoices to steal money. In each instance, the indictment says that after MDA paid him, Stokes wrote large checks that other people cashed, and then Stokes conveyed the cash to Lewis. The indictment says Lewis received more than $250,000 in bribes, depositing $235,531 into her checking account at a credit union.

Lewis pleaded guilty in January to one count. She is awaiting sentencing.


Information from: Bolivar Commercial, https://www.bolivarcom.com

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