ABERDEEN – Tammi Henderson Palasini, already serving a state prison sentence, admitted Tuesday that she swindled veterans and the elderly out of more than $2 million.
Appearing before U.S. District Court Chief Judge Sharion Aycock, 54-year-old Palasini said the allegations against her are correct.
“I plead guilty,” she said, standing before the judge.
Palasini was indicted July 14, 2015, on multiple federal counts of fraud, mail fraud and money laundering.
She faces years in prison after her plea in North Mississippi but will not be sentenced until Aug. 10 after completion of a pre-sentence report to guide Aycock’s decision on her punishment.
Also known as Gina, Palasini is the sister of new Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Dawn H. Beam of Sumrall. She continues serving a 10-year state prison sentence on two convictions of false pretense in Wayne and Pike counties.
She left the courtroom in the custody of the U.S. Marshal Service and is expected to remain in federal custody until her sentencing.
Palasini was accused on 12 federal counts of fraud and swindles, six counts of wire/radio/TV fraud and one count of money laundering-fraud in DeSoto, Washington and Sunflower counties.
She pleaded not guilty to all charges in August 2015, facing up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines on each charge. Her decision to plead guilty apparently came March 23, when various related court documents were signed.
Her 15-page indictment claims that from February 2009 to July 2012, Palasini devised and executed a scheme to defraud veterans, senior citizens and their families by creating fake businesses she promoted as helping them to invest their savings and get benefits from Medicaid and/or the U.S. Veterans Administration.
Palasini entered the courtroom shackled at the ankles and wrists, wearing an orange Lafayette County Jail inmate jumpsuit. She smiled as she spoke quietly with her attorney, Edward J. Bogen Jr. of Leland, before the proceedings.
In the audience were Grady Porch, 85, and his daughter, Martha Huggart, both of Raymond, who said Palasini bilked Porch out of $330,000. Their loss was not at issue in today’s guilty plea.
Aycock questioned Palasini prior to her guilty plea to Count 1 of perpetrating a mail-fraud scheme on a man named Joseph A. Babb in Madison.
The prosecutor, assistant U.S. attorney Robert Coleman, said Palasini sent an envelope containing a check to Babb “to deceive him” that interest was being earned on a $250,000-plus annuity Babb thought he entrusted to Palasini.
Palasini said she’s been in state or federal custody since August 2014. Records show she has been serving her state sentence at Central Mississippi Correctional Facility in Pearl.
Coleman said that with her plea, the U.S. government agrees to drop all other charges against Palasini. He said restitution is on the table as a potential punishment to come from Aycock later.
A document called “Factual Basis” detailed a wide range of accusations against Palasini, claiming she used the mail to defraud at least 12 senior citizens who thought they were making interest on annuities and life insurance policies, Coleman said.
She used the money “for her own personal gain,” he told the court.
Total loss was $2,039,236, Coleman noted.