A northern Mississippi sheriff was arrested Wednesday, accused in a federal indictment of using his office to secure kickbacks from stolen drug money and a bail bond business wanting to operate in his county.
Tunica County Sheriff Jerry Ellington was taken into custody by federal agents on extortion and bribery charges, said U.S. Atty. Jim Greenlee and FBI Special Agent in charge Edwin Worthington.
A four-count indictment was returned Monday. “We have been investigating this for a long time,” Greenlee said.
According to the indictment, from June 2002 to January of this year, Ellington took kickbacks of more than $5,000 after promoting a Tunica County deputy to a narcotics position, where the deputy could steal money from drug dealers and split it with Ellington.
Ellington, 45, also allegedly took payoffs of more than $5,000 from a bail bondsman from May to July. Ellington would take cash payments plus 30% of the premium on every bond written in exchange for allowing the bondsman to operate in the county, the indictment charges. Ellington would also allegedly refer people arrested by the sheriff’s office to the bondsman.
After his arrest, Ellington made an initial appearance before a federal magistrate. Ellington’s arrest comes more than a month after 17 deputies claimed in a federal lawsuit that Ellington threatened their jobs if they did not support his reelection bid.
Ellington, who is in his first term, took office after his elected predecessor in the largely rural county pleaded guilty to extortion. He faces four opponents in the Tuesday Democratic Party primary.
James Dunn, president of the county Board of Supervisors, said Wednesday he was aware of the arrest but knew no other details.