Final Chapter – THE ALIBI
Phil Hardwick, longtime contributor to the Mississippi Business Journal has produced a serial novel (fiction). The plot revolves around the theft and quest for recovery of Brett Favre’s three MVP trophies that were on display at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum.
Jack Boulder, Mississippi’s premier private investigator, seeks to recover the special Brett Favre MVP exhibit that has been stolen from the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame & Museum.
Up until now Jack Boulder has searched for the trophies exhibit from Ocean Springs to West Point, finally recovering it in Quitman from a woman who had it stolen it to give to her husband as a gift. It was learned that the woman’s brother is Jerrold Jefferson, a powerful business owner with political pull and a crooked past. Just as Boulder returned to Jackson his car was run off the road and the exhibit taken from him.
Wednesday P.M. March 4 Jackson, MS
Shortly after 10:00 P.M. a Jackson Police Department patrol car arrived at the scene of a vehicle off the road at Pearl Street between Interstate 55 and downtown Jackson. The police officer observed a car with a broken out passenger window and a man behind the steering wheel who appeared to be crying. According to the officer’s report that was later filed, the man had been run off the road by another vehicle, there was no evidence of alcohol and the man managed to drive away in the car, it having sustained only minor damage.
Jack Boulder arrived at attorney Laura Webster’s downtown office shortly before 11:00 P.M. and recounted the events of the previous hour.
“I feel certain it was one of Jerrold Jefferson’s men who ran be off the road,” Boulder told her. “They now have the trophies exhibit and my cell phone. Let me have the keys to your car. I’m going to stake out Jefferson’s office.”
“I have another idea,” she replied, picking up her smartphone and tapping the screen.
“What are you doing?”
“When you got your cell phone we downloaded an app that would let me find you,” she said. “I did the same thing so that you could find me.” She studied her phone for a few seconds. “According to this, your phone is at the Old Capitol Museum.”
“Let’s go, smart lady,” he said.
They drove up Capitol Street to State Street, got out and begin searching the front lawn of the former statehouse. Nine minutes later they heard Boulder’s ringtone coming from a spot under a tree. Boulder picked up the device. The display read, “Unidentified Caller.” He answered the call.
“Mr. Boulder,” said a female voice. “I have what you’ve been looking for.”
“Who is this?” he asked.
“This is Ruth Ann Tucker, the alderman from Madison County, whom you visited on Monday. Someone left that trophy thing in my carport a little while ago.”
“Ms. Tucker, leave your house now,” Boulder said. “You’re being set up. Leave as fast as you can.”
Ruth Ann Tucker took the advice with haste. She picked up the trophies exhibit, went straight to her car and drove away. Three blocks later she passed two Canton police patrol cars headed in the direction. of her residence.
Jack Boulder woke up at sunrise after four hours of sleep wondering about the outcome of last evening’s events. His calls to the alderman were not answered. He had talked with MBI Agent Sheila Burgess shortly before 1:00 a.m. and learned that the Canton Police Department had received an anonymous call stating that Ruth Ann Tucker was harboring stolen property, specifically the trophies exhibit, and that she was about to sell it to someone from out of state. The Canton P.D. responded immediately, but found no one at home or any evidence of stolen property.
He showered, dressed and made coffee. At 7:30 A.M. he received the call he had been waiting for. It was Ruth Ann Tucker.
“I believe I have what you are looking for,” she said. “Is there still a reward?”
“There is,” boulder replied.
“Meet me in the parking lot of the Sports Museum at eleven o’clock,” the alderman said. “I’ll turn it over to you personally.”
“I’ll be there,” he said. He described the car he would be driving and ended the conversation. He called Laura Webster immediately and told her what Ruth Ann Tucker had said.
“Now I need some legal advice,” he said. “Should I just pick up the item from her and return it or should I let everyone else involved know that I’m meeting her. After all, what if I meet her and she doesn’t have it with her?”
“You’ve been hired by the insurance company to recover stolen property. That company is your client,” she said. “On the other hand this sounds like another setup that may lead to your being charged with receiving stolen property. This Jerrold Jefferson fellow seems to have enough power to make that happen. His fingers are deep into state government, according to my partners here at the firm. Just to be on the safe side, I advise you to let everyone involved know about the meeting and ask them to wait inside the museum. And I’ll meet you there at ten till eleven.”
Boulder agreed, made the calls and parked in front of the museum at 10:45 A.M. halfway between the museum and Smith-Wills Stadium. It was a cold and sunny morning. He noticed eight cars from three different law enforcement agencies parked near the front door of the museum.
At 11:00 o’clock on the dot Alderman Ruth Ann Tucker arrived in her Camry. She motioned for Boulder to come sit in her passenger seat. As he did so he noticed a cardboard box on the back seat. It contained the trophies exhibit.
“As you can see, I have your item,” she said. “I’m going to give it to you, but first I want you to read this.”
She handed Boulder a newspaper. He read the front-page article, and then said, “Well, I’ll be damned. This explains most everything.”
She drove closer to the museum front door. Boulder retrieved the trophies exhibit from the back seat. The private investigator and the alderman walked inside to the main floor where the others were gathered in similar fashion to the original Monday morning briefing. Laura Webster walked in and joined the meeting. Boulder gave her a wink. Boulder walked to museum director Chad Montgomery and handed him the box.
“One behalf of your insurance company I am returning your property,” Boulder said. “I would also like to ask MBI Agent Sheila Burgess to read the article on this newspaper from the Birmingham News-Journal dated three years ago.” She accepted the newspaper and read from the article.
Mississippi Businessman Pleads Guilty in Alabama Federal Court to $10 Million Tax Scheme and Massive Fraud That Involved the Bribery of Bank Officials.
Jerrold Jefferson pleaded guilty today in to various tax crimes that caused more than $10 million in losses to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and a massive fraud that involved the bribery of bank officials, the fraudulent purchase of an insurance company, and the defrauding of insurance regulators. Jefferson was a businessman who controlled numerous entities located throughout Alabama and Mississippi. He controlled the companies and their finances, using them to orchestrate a $10 million fraud on the IRS as well as other illegal schemes. However, rather than exercise control of these companies openly, Jefferson concealed his control by installing other individuals to oversee the companies’ day-to-day functions and to serve as the companies’ owners, directors or officers.
She paused and said, “The article goes on to say that Jefferson will pay a fine and serve a suspended sentence pending his good behavior and making restitution. The article also says that the U.S. Attorney praised the investigative work of IRS Criminal Investigations Special Agent Ruth Ann Tucker for her role in the investigation and prosecution of this case.”
All eyes turned toward the alderman.
“That would certainly explain why Jerrold Jefferson would want to get back at the agent who prosecuted him and cost him a lot of money,” Boulder said.
Chad Montgomery spoke up. “But why the museum? What’s his connection with this place?”
“This was all about an incredible case of coincidence and opportunity,” Boulder said. “Jefferson’s sister is Dee Dee Turnage, who is married to George Turnage, who has one of the best sports trophy collections in the country. When George heard that the sports museum in Mississippi might have a trophy or trophies awarded to Brett Favre he casually mentioned to his wife that the exhibit would be worth stealing. He didn’t really mean it, but Dee Dee was desperate to do something to save what she believed was a crumbling marriage. She happened to mention it to her brother, Jerrold Jefferson, whose company, Caliber Alarm, happened to be updating the alarm system at the museum. Jefferson saw an opportunity to show off to his sister and to frame the former IRS agent who convicted him.”
“What about the video that showed the license plate of the car used in the theft?” someone asked.
“With Jefferson’s resources I suspect it would be easy to make a forgery of a car tag,” Boulder said. “Also, Jefferson likes to use others without them knowing it is himself, witness the IRS case. That’s why there was such an elaborate exchange of the exhibit on the night of the theft.”
“I can add more to this.” It was Captain Larry Lewis, Jackson Police Department. “We have apprehended the alarm worker who hasn’t shown up for work. He says that he is ready to give a statement about his involvement, but he wants a lawyer first. My guess is that he will admit to being hired to do the theft. He’s having trouble explaining a five thousand dollar bank deposit on Tuesday.”
At 1:30 P.M. Jack Boulder and Laura Webster could be found sharing a late lunch at a table by the window at their favorite Jackson restaurant. Each had a glass of red wine in front of them.
“Congratulations,” Laura said. “Solved a rather complicated case, recovered the stolen item and will receive quite a nice income from it. How much was it? A hundred grand?”
“I got lucky,” Boulder said. “And I certainly did not believe it could be done in seven days. And besides, I’ve got quite a few expenses. There is this law firm that ran the 800-number hotline that will also receive a nice income, plus a bonus. And then there are income taxes.”
“You’ll need some deductions on your taxes this year,” she said.
“I already have one in mind,” he said.
“I never knew much about the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum until this case,” he said. “It does some rather important work and needs to keep growing.”
“Do I hear a contribution?” she said.
“Yes,” he replied. “And it will be a nice one at that.”
And with that, their wine glasses clinked in a mutual silent toast.
AUTHOR’S COMMENTS – This serial novel is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. There was no break-in at the museum. There is no trophies exhibit. The author encourages your support of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum and congratulates Brett Favre and the other inductees into the 2015 Class. Go to www.msfame.com for more information.