A Mobile businesswoman, whose group homes were the focus of a Lagniappe investigation, has pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges related to public benefits she collected on behalf of several of her residents.
Meoshi Nelson Williams was indicted in late 2019 following an investigation conducted by the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) and other federal officials. She was accused of listing her daughter, Raven Nelson, as the payee for SSA benefits collected by at least six residents of her group homes.
Williams, who operated multiple group homes in Mobile under the radar of public health officials for years, was accused of conspiring with her daughter to defraud the federal government of more than $306,000. Her indictment said she misled SSA in order to continue receiving her residents’ payments after being disqualified from serving as their representative payee due to a previous federal conviction.
On April 29, Williams pleaded guilty to wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud — admitting to shifting SSA benefits into her daughter’s name after the agency learned in 2017 that Williams couldn’t collect them due to a federal conviction two years earlier. That case was related to more than $100,000 Williams fraudulently claimed in lost income after the BP oil spill — charges she pleaded guilty to in 2015.
Court filings indicate Williams’ daughter has reached an agreement to resolve her charges through pretrial diversion, contingent on the defendant passing a polygraph examination.
Williams is scheduled to be sentenced on her three new convictions on July 31 in Mobile.
She is currently incarcerated in the Escambia County Detention Center in Atmore for violating the terms of her probation connected to her 2015 BP fraud conviction. A federal judge sentenced her to 18 months behind bars in February for leaving the country while on probation, failing to make regular restitution payments and opening up new lines of credit for vehicles against the terms of her release.
Over the past two months, Williams has made multiple attempts to secure an early release from that sentence. In February, she made a personal plea asking the judge to reconsider the sentence, in part, because of what she described as “horrible” conditions in jail. As Lagniappe reported, some residents had similar concerns about the conditions in some of the group homes Williams ran throughout the county.
In March, Williams’ attorney, Buzz Jordan, sought to have her released from jail due to the ongoing threat of the coronavirus, which has spread quickly in some correctional facilities that have been unable to isolate sick inmates and maintain proper social distancing between others. Jordan noted that Williams’ age and prior medical conditions made her more susceptible to complications from the virus.
He also argued Williams met the criteria for federal prisoners the White House has prioritized for release because her conviction was nonviolent and she doesn’t present a danger to the public. Despite that, the judge over the case ultimately denied the request and Williams remains in federal custody.
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