Former Jackson developer David Watkins arrested for embezzlement - - Jackson, MS

Former Jackson developer David Watkins arrested for embezzlement

Source: Madison Co. Detention Center Source: Madison Co. Detention Center
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

A former Jackson developer has been arrested for embezzling more than half a million in bonds.

We have obtained the indictment in the case against 68-year-old David Watkins, showing two charges for fraud by mail or other means of communication and embezzlement of $587,084.34 while serving as managing member of Retro Metro.

The defendant entered a plea of not guilty Thursday morning and has been let out on a $5,000 bond. 

According to the Attorney General's Office, Watkins turned himself in to the Madison County Sheriff's Department Wednesday night after being indicted on one count of wire fraud and one count of embezzlement of bond money intended for a development project he managed.

The indictment, which was handed down in October by a Madison County grand jury, states he took $587,084.34 in bond proceeds from the Mississippi Business Finance Corporation while working as the managing member of development company Retro Metro, LLC in June of 2011.

"We are hopeful that in the end, the Attorney General will see that he does not need to interject himself into what is simply a private contract dispute between former partners, who, frankly, don't like each other a whole lot anymore," said Lance Stevens, who has worked as Watkins' civil lawyer in the past and is currently serving as his spokesperson.

According to the indictment, the bonds were meant for construction costs for a project financed through taxable revenue bonds for which BankPlus in Ridgeland served as Trustee.

The bond money was ultimately put toward Watkins’ own use. The wire fraud charge stems from the scheme being transmitted by telephone, wire or other communication across county lines.

If convicted on all counts, Watkins faces up to 25 years in prison and $30,000 in fines. 

Watkins created "RetroMetro LLC" to take on a project renovating the MetroCenter Mall, and contracted with his own company, David Watkins Development.

Stevens says the half-million dollars Watkins is accused of embezzling was a developer's fee Retro Metro was to pay to Watkins Development.

"Two judges have already ruled in civil matters that David was entitled to the developer's fee," said Stevens.

This is actually the second time that fee has come into question.

Watkins labeled his developer's fee as RetroMetro Construction Costs, which the Attorney General says violates the Mississippi Code of 1972.

In 2014, Watkins was found guilty of four counts of security fraud violations, when he wired that 587-thousand dollars to use for construction of a police station in Meridian.

"There's no shady or nefarious elements to it. It was just a contract issue," said Stevens.

Watkins' son, Jason Watkins, is serving as his attorney in the case.

"[Jason] had given up the law practice in order to go into land development and urban renewal - essentially in his dad's footsteps, and has been very successful at it. But he's decided to step back into the legal arena in order to defend his father," explained Stevens.

Watkins' settlement conference is set for 9 a.m. May 7, 2018. His pretrial conference is 9 a.m. May 29 and his trial is set for 9 a.m. June 4.


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