Former JC employee blames disabilities, record for not being able to work
A woman who stole almost $100,000 from Jones County Junior College has barely made a dent in what she owes 10 years after being convicted of embezzlement.
Tracy Laird, 50, was ordered to appear before Judge Dal Williamson in Jones County Circuit Court for failing to make monthly payments as ordered by the court. At the time of her court appearance, records showed that she had not paid anything to the circuit clerk’s office since June 2019.
A decade after being convicted, Laird hasn’t quite covered the investigative costs and interest of more than $18,000 that she was supposed to pay back. She was ordered in January 2010 to pay a total of $110,429.69. More than 10 years later, she owes $92,639.
“I lost my job because the business I was working for (Solutions Management in Ellisville) folded,” Laird told the judge, adding that she had filed for disability.
When Williamson asked if she had tried to get another job, Laird said, “Nobody wants to hire a felon.”
The judge shot down that excuse.
“That’s not true, I see people who are convicted felons get jobs every day,” he said. “It just depends on if you really want to work.”
Laird said she wasn’t able to clean houses any more because she has several disabilities, including degenerative disk disease.
“We all have degenerative disk disease as we get older,” Williamson said. “I have it. It’s part of getting older. That’s why our backs hurt.”
Social Security denied Laird’s application for disability and she has since appealed, she said.
At one point, the judge asked Laird why she kept rolling her eyes toward the ceiling.
“I’m trying to keep from getting emotional,” she said.
Laird went on to say that her husband broke his leg and was unable to work for six months and that was part of the reason she failed to pay the court for so long.
“You still owe a lot of money to JCJC … my job is to make sure they get made whole, and I’m going to do my job,” Williamson said.
Laird said her disability lawyer told her she will qualify before the end of the year. She also has neuropathy and fibromyalgia, and she’s scheduled to have back surgery in December if she gets it paid off.
“My son in the Air Force said he was willing to pay $3,000 to South Central Regional Medical Center for me … he knows I can’t work,” Laird said.
The judge asked her to provide proof from a doctor showing that she is unable to work.
“It’s disturbing that you suddenly stopped paying,” he said. “I know people who go to work every day with similar ailments … one in this courthouse right now with a rod in her spine. It just depends on how bad you want to work.”
Laird later provided documentation about her ailments. Still, she needs to make her payments to avoid being held in contempt of court, Williamson said.
“You need to get caught up, and do it immediately,” he said.
Laird paid $2,100 in the circuit clerk’s office the next day.
Laird pleaded guilty in January 2010 to stealing more than $90,000 from JCJC between July 2007 and February 2009 after being employed in the accounting department for more than 10 years. She was ordered by then-Judge Billy Joe Landrum to serve five years in prison and pay $110,429.46, which includes interest and investigative costs for the State Auditor’s Office.
She was ordered to pay $150 per month within 60 days after being released from prison. At that rate, it would take almost 62 years to make full restitution.
On Tuesday, State Auditor Shad White announced that special agents from his office arrested former Northeast Mississippi Community College employee Amy Haynie after she was indicted for embezzlement. Hanie was issued a demand letter for $68,762.87, a total that includes interest and investigative expenses.
Haynie is accused of embezzling more than $57,000 from a college petty cash fund and from students as they paid various college-related fees.
Suspected fraud can be reported to the auditor’s office online any time by clicking the red button at www.osa.ms.gov or via telephone during normal business hours at 1-800-321-1275.