West granted preliminary examination

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 14, 2009

NATCHEZ — Natchez businessman Theodore “Bubber” West made his initial appearance in court Monday.

The former alderman was scheduled to be arraigned on charges of two counts conversion of funds in Adams County Justice Court, but his attorney, Hal Dockins, requested a preliminary examination of the charges.

“In the preliminary examination, if there are some complaining witnesses in support of the charges against (West), they will come forward,” Dockins said.

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“This will be the first opportunity for Mr. West to question these witnesses and get a handle on what they are alleging he has done.”

Currently, all the defendant has is affidavits stating that he has been accused, Dockins said.

“They are not clear about what they are alleging,” Dockins said.

Justice Court Judge Charlie Vess granted the preliminary examination, and said it would likely be in August.

Once the preliminary examination is completed, the matter could be bound over to a grand jury, Vess said.

Conversion is essentially a form of theft that occurs when a party gives someone else an asset for a specific use, and that person takes the asset and uses it for something else.

West was booked on the charges at the Adams County jail when he turned himself in on warrants from the state attorney general and secretary of state offices Thursday.

The attorney general’s office has alleged that West’s business, West Funeral Home, took money for pre-need funeral plans but did not put it in the appropriate mandatory trusts.

The secretary of state’s office also alleges that West Funeral Home was not licensed to sell the pre-need contracts, and that West Funeral Home’s pre-need funeral trust fund is short approximately $95,000.

Immediately following the proceedings Monday, a woman in the courtroom, who was there for another matter, asked the judge if she could ask West a question about her mother’s pre-need funeral arrangements.

Vess told the woman it wasn’t the appropriate venue, but Dockins said he didn’t mind if she contacted him, and gave the woman a business card.

West Funeral Home has been in foreclosure and bankruptcy court since May. In 2007, West was arrested on charges of felony false pretense for allegedly writing bad checks.