- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 29, 2016

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - A woman has pleaded guilty to a mail fraud charge following accusations she stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from senior citizens seeking help to obtain Medicaid or veterans benefits.

Tammi Henderson Palasini pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of mail fraud before U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock in Aberdeen, Mississippi.

Overall, prosecutors say Palasini’s victims lost more than $2 million.

Palasini, 54, will be sentenced Aug. 10. She faces an additional 20 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine, and could be ordered to repay victims.

Palasini was previously convicted in state court in Pike County and in Wayne County on false pretense charges and in Sunflower County on a bad check charge. State records show she began serving a 17-year state sentence in 2015.

She is the sister of state Supreme Court Justice Dawn Beam and Chip Henderson, senior pastor of Pinelake Church, a large Brandon-based Southern Baptist congregation.

The former insurance agent was indicted in July in federal court on a 19-count indictment that could have brought 380 years in prison. Prosecutors charged that Palasini repeatedly took large sums of money from people, claiming she was helping them obtain federal benefits and selling them annuities that would provide income. However, the indictment said that Palasini was running a Ponzi scheme where she would pay customers some money but keep the rest for herself.

The count that Palasini pleaded guilty to involved $250,000 that she received from Joe Babb of Madison. The indictment stated that when Babb died, his sons sought to have the money returned, as allowed under the contract they signed. Prosecutors said Palasini stopped making payments in 2012 when she still owed Ken and Joey Babb $108,000.

Martha Huggart, whose father lost his life’s savings to the scheme, told The Clarion-Ledger (https://on.thec-l.com/1UrUcxg) that she was grateful that Palasini could no longer defraud any more victims.

“I’m torn because I know as a Christian I’m supposed to forgive, but what she did to my mom and dad is very hard,” Huggart said.

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This story corrects the name of Pinelake Church’s pastor to Chip Henderson, not Randy Henderson.

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