April trial date set for pair in Hattiesburg housing indictment

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A Hattiesburg pastor and a New Orleans businessman face an April 18 trial date on multiple counts that they defrauded the U.S. government through a local residential rehabilitation project.

The Rev. Kenneth Fairley, pastor of Mt. Carmel Baptist Church, and Artie Fletcher were arrested March 23 on a federal indictment. Each is free on $25,000 unsecured bond.

They are scheduled to go on trial before U.S. District Judge Keith Starrett in Hattiesburg.

Fletcher is owner of Interurban Development, a for-profit company based in New Orleans, which was contracted by Fairley’s Pinebelt Community Services to rehabilitate various Hattiesburg properties.

The indictment accuses Fairley of six counts and Fletcher on three counts of involvement in a scheme to illegally launder money and defraud the government of thousands of dollars aimed at improving three residences.

The pair, who have not yet entered pleas to the charges, are accused of submitting invoices and receipts that inflated project costs.

If convicted, they each face from five to 20 years in prison and steep fines.

Fairley is represented by Sanford E. Knott; Fletcher by Jennifer Nicaud.