Balducci changes plea in federal embezzlement case
by Rory Doyle
Jun 07, 2013 | 3729 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The ongoing federal case of Linda Balducci, former executive director of Southeastern Development Opportunities, Inc. located in Shelby, took a recent twist after she announced her intention to enter a change of plea.

Co-defendant Connie Lewis of Jackson, and Balducci were both connected with an embezzlement and bribery scheme related to federal grant funds and the construction of community housing projects in the Mississippi Delta.

Southeastern Development Opportunities Inc. was a non-profit organization founded by Balducci in April of 1993.

Over the years, the organization had obtained state and federal grants used to construct housing for low-income residents in the region.

The duo was indicted in 2012 by a federal grand jury on three counts of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and embezzlement of public monies.

The trial, United States of America v. Linda Balducci and Connie Lewis, was scheduled for June 17 but will now be continued on Sept. 9, due to Balducci's plea change.

According to federal court documents, counsel for Lewis has been informed that Balducci will testify for the government at trial.

John H. Daniels III, Balducci's attorney, was unavailable before presstime to explain her change of plea.

This development will require additional time for the defense to consider and may require additional exchange and review of discovery material.

In the first count of the indictment, the U.S. charged that Balducci conspired with the late Jimmy Stokes, owner of Stokes Construction Company, and others to "steal, embezzle, and convert money to her own use without authority, which was the property of the United States with a value in excess of $1,000."

The money in question came from a grant issued by the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development through the Mississippi Development Authority to construct an apartment complex in Isola.

The indictment stated that Balducci "used her position as executive director to obtain the grant and award the building contract to Stokes. Stokes then intentionally and fraudulently submitted a change order request in the amount of $279,000 to dig a drainage ditch in connection with the project.

According to U.S. Attorney Felicia C. Adams, the expected cost of the drainage ditch was approximately $20,000.

Counts two and three of the indictment claim that Balducci and Stokes made kickbacks to each other in the amount of $89,400.