Mississippi Casino Trips Funded by Government Cash, Officials Claim

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Mississippi Casino Trips Funded by Government Cash, Officials Claim

The ex-director of Mississippi’s Tunica County Airport was arrested this week after being indicted for embezzlement. He allegedly used some ill-gotten government money at local casinos.

Eric Konupka
Eric Konupka
Eric Konupka in a mug shot, pictured above. He was charged with embezzlement. (Image: Mississippi State Auditor)

Eric Konupka inserted the airport’s debit card at ATM machines to withdraw cash for personal expenses, according to a statement from Mississippi State Auditor Shad White. The money was used not only at gaming properties, but also to buy food, automotive supplies, energy drinks, cigarettes, and to pay for meals at restaurants, White claimed.

The Mississippi Attorney General’s Office will prosecute the case. If convicted, Konupka could be sentenced for up to 20 years in prison.

He could be ordered to pay thousands of dollars in fines and make restitution on the ill-gotten money. A demand letter said he owes $9,259. That includes interest and expenses, White revealed.

Whether it’s the largest public fraud in the state or an employee using a government purchasing card to buy a few thousand dollars’ worth of items for themselves, we will hold the line on any misuse of taxpayer money,” White said in the statement.

Konupka was arrested in Florida. He worked at the airport between 2003 and 2021, according to online records.

The airport is owned by the Tunica County Airport Commission, a government entity. The airport is located some 40 miles south of Memphis, Tenn.

Murder Suspects Sought

In another crime, Mississippi police are still hunting for two suspects in last month’s deadly shooting at the Scarlet Pearl Casino. A stolen car connected to the crime was located in nearby Alabama. It had been set ablaze.

Nicholaus Craig, 36, was fatally wounded while in a rental car parked in a lot across from the D’Iberville, Miss. gaming property. Craig and a girlfriend were staying at the casino hotel to celebrate his birthday. The couple ate dinner that night at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

Later, Craig left the hotel for a ride around 2 am, apparently after having back pain from recent surgery. While he was in the car, he was shot once.

Remains of Craig’s rental car, a dark blue Nissan Altima, were discovered later in an apartment complex in Prichard, Ala. The car had been set on fire, destroying most of it, WXXV, a local TV station, reported.

The victim’s mother wants justice for her son’s death.

I want to appeal to someone who knows who did this to him,” Sumorris Tucker told WALA, a local TV station. “It’s like a hole in my heart and I want justice.”

Casino Proposal Moves Ahead

Elsewhere in Mississippi, in August, a casino resort proposed for Long Beach can move forward following a ruling by the Mississippi Supreme Court. The project has been on hold for several years while courts review the proposal.

Real estate developer Jim Parrish wants to construct a $180 million casino resort across from Long Beach Harbor. Parrish owns Parrish’s Restaurant & Lounge on the tidelands, as well as the vacant property across US Highway 90.

Parrish wants to build his casino on the land north of Highway 90. He plans to satisfy state riverboat gaming laws requiring casinos to be within 800 feet of the Gulf Coast’s mean high-water line. He will accomplish that by tethering the resort’s primary structure to Parrish’s Restaurant.

The state previously argued that since the plan does not include actual gaming within 800 feet of water, the resort should not be approved by the Mississippi Gaming Commission (MGC).

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