5 years given in cemetery monument fraud case

Published 12:11 am Friday, May 2, 2014

NATCHEZ — The Natchez businessman who pleaded guilty to taking money for cemetery monuments he never delivered was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday.

Dwight Gibson, 46, previously pleaded guilty to five counts of felony false pretense in connection with the case.

Gibson operated Clear Creek Monuments.

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At the sentencing, Gibson’s attorney, Claude Pintard, asked Judge Forrest “Al” Johnson to take into consideration the fact that Gibson’s family had made restitution to his victims, including a number of whom were not included in the indictments to which he pleaded guilty.

Three witnesses — Willie B. Jones, the Rev. Leon Howard and Gibson’s brother, Peter Gibson — spoke on his behalf, asking the judge to consider that Gibson had not set out to defraud his customers, but had lost the monument money because of a gambling problem.

“I want to apologize to the court for what my brother has done,” Peter Gibson said. “I feel he needs some counseling.”

When Dwight Gibson addressed the court, he asked forgiveness from the judge and from the families for what he had done.

“It was not like I was trying to take money from them, I have a gambling problem,” he said.

The defendant likewise asked the court to grant him some clemency because his daughter will have a graduation this month and he would like to be there.

“The last nine months have taken 20 years off my life,” he said.

When handing down the sentence, Johnson said he would not fine Gibson since his family had made restitution. He did order Gibson, however, to repay an additional claim of approximately $1,200 that the state attorney general’s office brought to the attention of the court.

“While I recognize this is totally a non-violent offense — you didn’t shoot anybody or rob anybody — it is still an offense,” Johnson said.

“The other thing I am taking into consideration is that you have obviously put your family through a lot.”

The judge told Gibson to consider the victims in the case.

“You ever think about when people lose somebody, when they go and make arrangements for a tombstone, that is a very personal, emotional thing, and to prey on somebody like that is not a good thing,” Johnson said. “I am sure you have inflicted a lot of emotional stress on your victims, even though they are getting their money back now.”

Johnson said Gibson could have been given a 50-year sentence.

Instead, the judge gave him a penalty of one year in prison for each of the five counts with credit for time served and no required post-release supervision.

Johnson told Gibson that from this point forward he didn’t have “any business” entering a casino or operating a monument company.

Gibson was taken to the Adams County jail, where he waited for transportation to a Mississippi Department of Corrections facility after the court appearance.