Former Coldwater town clerk accused of stealing $116K

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COLDWATER, Miss. — A former town clerk in northwest Mississippi has been indicted on charges that he stole $116,000 in town money.

George Nangah was clerk in the 1,700-resident town of Coldwater from 2014 until he was fired in July 2017. Nangah, a 51-year-old resident of Cordova, Tennessee, was indicted in August on 14 counts of wire fraud. That indictment was unsealed Sept. 19, but Nangah wasn’t arrested until Friday in Tunica County.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Roy Percy, in a Tuesday hearing in federal court in Oxford, ordered Nangah jailed pending a Thursday hearing. Assistant Public Defender Greg Park declined to comment on Nangah’s guilt or innocence. He said defense lawyers haven’t seen the evidence in the case yet. Park said Nangah wants to be released on bail.

The indictment alleges Nangah used a debit card connected to the town’s bank account to buy items at Lowe’s and set up a town charge account at Best Buy, using it to buy gift cards and merchandise. Prosecutors said none of the purchases were for the town and state Auditor Shad White said Nangah bought a GoPro camera and gift cards for airline tickets and hotels.

Prosecutors also allege Nangah paid himself directly from town bank accounts and paid an unnamed third party who would then pay kickbacks to Nangah. White said Nangah paid $46,000 to himself and $53,000 to the other person.

If convicted, Nangah faces up to 20 years in federal prison and up to a $250,000 fine.

White said he is also referring Nangah’s case for state prosecution on embezzlement charges.

“We will crack down on any embezzlement at any level of government,” White said in a statement.

In addition to the $116,000 that prosecutors say Nangah stole, White said auditors found that Nangah made $100,000 worth of improper payments that weren’t approved by town aldermen.

White filed a civil demand against Nangah demanding he repay nearly $303,000, including the amount White says he embezzled, the unapproved payments and the cost of the investigation and interest costs.

If Nangah doesn’t pay the money within 30 days, White could sue him in a civil lawsuit. Nangah also had a surety bond, and White is demanding payment from the bonding company.

Coldwater Mayor Jessie Edwards didn’t immediately return a phone call seeking comment on Wednesday.