91-Year-Old Mayor Stole $201K from Tiny Alabama Town

A seemingly sweet old lady had been extorting money for years.

  • Share
  • Read Later
Jeffrey Coolidge / Getty Images

The biggest crook in one small Alabama town certainly doesn’t fit the usual profile. On Thursday, 91-year-old Mary Ella Hixon pleaded guilty to swindling over $201,000 from River Falls, Ala., population 510, where she served as mayor for three decades, the Associated Press reports.

Hixon resigned after pleading guilty to theft, according to the AP, and documents show she had paid hush money to others in the Covington County town to hide her crimes.

Hixon was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but the term was changed to five years probation due to the defendant’s “advanced age,” according to the Andalusia Star-News.

The AP reports that Covington County District Attorney Walt Merrell said the decades of extortion have sapped River Falls’ budget and left the city almost penniless.

“Had it not been a 91-year-old woman, I would have stood on my head to make sure she went to prison,” Merrell told the AP.

Hixon has been ordered to repay the money, and her estate will be held responsible if she dies before completing the payment.

The probe into Hixon’s behavior revealed that in the last three years she had illicitly transferred $201,610 of the town’s money to other people, but prosecutors said they suspect her crimes began long before, the AP reports.

Hixon’s downfall began with the sale of a half-acre of city property to a man named Richard Moss, who had been living with her for more than a decade. The Andalusia Star-News reported in August that town council members never voted to approve the sale, prompting an investigation into the town’s finances. Moss stepped down from his job as jail administrator in nearby Coffee County amid the scandal, according to the Andalusia Star-News. In August, the newspaper reported that just moments after Hixon won the mayoral election, authorities executed a search warrant on town hall and Hixon’s home and workplace.

On Wednesday, Hixon—one of Alabama’s longest-serving mayors—turned herself into police as part of a negotiated surrender, and was released on bond without spending the night in prison before her court session, the AP notes.

No one else has been charged in the crimes, but Hixon has agreed to testify against any accomplices, the Star-News reports.

Hixon’s attorney, Mark Christensen, told the AP that the reasons behind the mayor’s crimes are complicated and that she was “taken advantage of” by others.

According to the AP, a sworn police statement said Hixon had misappropriated city money by transferring it to herself and her relatives, Moss and his relatives, and co-workers at a development company where she also worked. The statement detailed a conversation between Hixon and a citizen with a hidden recorder during which the mayor confessed to the crimes and paid the resident $525 to help conceal her behavior. A Wednesday story from the Andalusia Star-News lists how Hixon spent some of the extorted money, including an $80,298 salary she paid to Moss for work he did not actually perform as a “nighttime policeman” in River Falls.

Merrell told the AP that several citizens eventually offered information to police about Hixon’s activities.

“They were reluctant to do so earlier for fear of being ostracized or because it was a proverbial ‘little old lady,’” Merrel said to the AP.

The Andalusia Star-News reports that Hixon primarily gave one-word answers during court proceedings, but when asked about her mental condition, she assured the judge, “I’ve got my wits about me.”

9 comments
TariAkpodiete
TariAkpodiete

This was not 'extortion'; it was embezzlement! How could a journalist not know the difference? And where are the copy editors?

truenorthfree2
truenorthfree2

"Hixon was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but the term was changed to five years probation due to the defendant’s “advanced age,"

WHAT A CROCK OF DOODEE, PUT THE IDIOT IN JAIL AND MAKE HER PAY THE PRICE OF HER CRIME.

Dandahan4
Dandahan4

What a scoop for Time ... high standards and quality journalism which portrayed the Irish Taoiseach as a hero of austerity imposition on the poorest citizens while bunging Euros 35,000 pay rise per annum to a friend and old time adviser.

He continued this heroism by cutting fuel and light allowances to means tested( poorest) pensioners.

Two of many examples of heroic evidences for the keen research eye of pro israel PR types.

Tabitha
Tabitha

What bothers me is reducing her sentence because of her age.  No one is reducing 18yr or 25yr old sentences because they made a stupid, youthful mistake.  This woman lived 91 years and STILL stole 200k from Alabama citizens.  Let her spend the rest of her life and jail and make sure her sentence is the full 10 years even if she doesn't live that long.

emmakeke
emmakeke

Well,I don't know,if she could take these money into coffin?I just can not understand! 

justanaverageguy
justanaverageguy

The crux of the problem comes down to "mayor for three decades" and that always amounts to corruption and thievery.     Longevity in office equals corruption.    Term limits limit corruption. 

Dandahan4
Dandahan4

No one at home therefore who guards the guards?

Time limits and no second term may be good for all /any power brokers.

XweAponX
XweAponX

Maybe she was good at it for a time, but you are right, Term Limits. Out here, Mayors only get two terms like Presidents do. With only 500 people in the whole town, and everybody knowing everybody like that, it is ludicrous to consider getting away with anything. I'll give the lady that she may have been stuck in a bad position, but her first mistake was not bringing stuff out into the open IMMEDIATELY. Or if she fouled up on something and somebody knew, and they blackmailed her: She could have brought it into the open to City Hall. But giving her "boyfriend" an 80k salary for doing nothing, she has to pay the piper for that.

XweAponX
XweAponX

Haha! Got to give it to the old lady, I actually admire her sand. But if an elderly Alabama Mayer is doing this stuff, I can imagine what younger elected officials are doing there, with impunity.