A Greenwood man who allegedly took $8,000 from Humphreys County High School seniors and left them stranded in a parking lot instead of on their class trip was arrested Tuesday by Greenwood police and charged with felony defrauding under false pretenses.
Ladarrius Donte West, 31, with listed addresses of 2647 Kay White Circle and 1369½ Virden Drive, both in the Glendale subdivision, was the subject of a nearly monthlong campaign by students from the high school and their parents and sponsors first trying to get their money back and then warning others not to do business with him or with his alleged company, Big Fella Bus Tours.
Organizers of the trip said they paid West $8,000 to take 54 students and chaperones on a bus to Miami, where they were set to take a cruise ship to the Bahamas. On the morning in mid-April when they were to leave, the students and adults were left waiting in a Belzoni parking lot as West continued to tell organizers “he was on his way” and “was almost there.”
West later told reporters the incident was a mistake and that he would refund the money. He never did.
Parents went to the Humphreys County Sheriff’s Office, and investigators determined the contract was signed and money changed hands in Greenwood. On May 3, the woman who helped organize the trip, Natasha McMillan, and a Humphreys County deputy visited Greenwood Chief Ray Moore.
“They scraped and scratched to get the money together, then to have somebody do this to them,” Moore said Wednesday.
West was arrested Tuesday and taken before Municipal Court Judge Carlos Palmer, who set bail at $10,000, Moore said.
If West is able to post that bond, he’ll have to answer to 7th District Chancery Court on a contempt citation for failure to pay back child support. And if he gets through that charge, he’s wanted on a warrant by the city of Grenada, also on a contempt of court charge. Should he get through that, Hinds County alerted Greenwood police Tuesday that he’s wanted on a warrant there, too.
Other than that, Moore said, West has no criminal record.
Andrea Allen-Rush’s nephew, Preston De-Jon Allen, is a member of the Class of 2019, and she helped raise money for the senior trip, although she said the students did most of the work selling donuts, candy bars and fruit snacks.
“I’m so happy to hear that,” she said of West’s arrest.
Besides the $8,000 they gave to West, Allen-Rush said, the students lost more than $3,000 put down for the cruise.
Organizers in Humphreys County decided not to let the students become victims. Allen-Rush said the community came together again and sent 39 students and nine adults to an abbreviated visit to Miami and the beach on the weekend of May 10-12.
“We petitioned so many people inside and outside our community,” she said. “We had a GoFundMe page. The Ladies of Faith sold fish plate dinners. Together they raised nearly $8,000, and the bus company they booked donated, too.”
West was in the Leflore County Jail on Wednesday. If found guilty of felony defrauding under false pretenses, he faces state prison for not more than 10 years and a fine of not more than $10,000.
• Contact Gavin Maliska at 581-7235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.