Ex-Marine Resources leader back in jail for missing payments

September 20, 2018

GULFPORT, Miss. (AP) — The former director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources is back behind bars after a judge ruled he fell too far behind on restitution payments.

U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett sent Bill Walker back to jail Wednesday until an Oct. 1 sentencing hearing. Local news outlets report Walker could face 6 months to 9 months more in prison, although Starrett says he might be lenient if Walker makes some payments.

Walker pleaded guilty in 2014 to conspiring to defraud the federal government by steering $210,000 in federal money to buy owned by his son, Scott Walker. Bill Walker admitted that he approved the federal money that a nonprofit used to buy land from Scott Walker, even though it was supposed to be used for other purposes. After the purchase, Scott and Bill Walker paid off part of a loan they owed, with Bill Walker taking out a new loan to pay the balance. Scott Walker and others also were convicted.

Bill Walker left prison in November and was supposed to begin paying $5,000 a month in restitution 30 days later. He argues his income is too low to make required payments toward $573,000 in restitution and a $125,000 fine.

In February, Starrett refused to reduce payments, finding Walker and his wife had more than $16,000 in monthly income, plus other assets. Walker argued then that he and his wife had monthly expenses of more than $15,000. Starrett said Walker hadn’t shown any effort to “adjust his lifestyle” and cut expenses.

Senior U.S. Probation Officer Justin Crowe wrote in the Aug. 9 petition that Walker “has failed to cooperate completely” with prosecutors because he hasn’t supplied all requested financial documentation despite several requests. Scott Walker told the Sun Herald Wednesday that he was responsible for gathering the documents but did not submit them before the deadline.

Starrett told Bill Walker Wednesday it’s unfortunate because “your son does not have to do the jail time.”

Scott Walker was ordered to pay a total of $390,000 in restitution for both cases. He said earlier this week that he was able to substantially reduce his restitution by selling his waterfront home in Ocean Springs.

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