Four Offer Guilty Pleas in Mississippi Bribery Case Where Undercover Sheriff Got $2,000 in Casino Chips
Posted on: August 22, 2019, 07:09h.
Last updated on: August 23, 2019, 12:34h.
Four men have agreed to plead guilty in a federal court in Mississippi for offering bribes to a county sheriff and a former corrections commissioner. The bribes included a one-time offer of $2,000 in casino chips to persuade officials to award prison contracts to their businesses.
Earlier this month, Michael LeBlanc Sr., Michael LeBlanc Jr., Tawasky L. Ventroy, and Jacque B. Jackson entered motions to change their pleas in the Southern District of Mississippi. US District Judge Henry Wingate set a hearing for Oct. 2 in Jackson to consider the requests.
Last September, the four men, all hailing from Louisiana, were indicted on charges they conspired to commit fraud against the federal government and offered bribes in connection with programs receiving federal funds.
According to the indictment, the four men were involved in two companies, Brothers Commissary Services LLC and American Phone Systems. They sought contracts with the Mississippi Department of Corrections, including the Kemper County Regional Correctional Facility, from 2012 to 2015. In addition to bribes, prosecutors alleged they also offered kickbacks to the state’s corrections commissioner.
The indictment said that the LeBlancs would use Ventroy and Jackson, both of whom are African-American, to meet with minority officials and state leaders to influence them.
In one instance, prosecutors said LeBlanc Jr. secured $2,000 in casino chips from the Golden Nugget Hotel and Casino in Biloxi. He handed four $500 chips to Jackson, who in turn gave them to Kemper County Sheriff James Moore in a Golden Nugget men’s restroom.
(A) location specifically selected for the delivery of the money because the inside of the bathroom was not covered by casino surveillance cameras,” the indictment stated.
Unbeknownst to the accused, Moore voluntarily aided federal agents and prosecutors and was working undercover. As such, he was never under investigation.
“As long as public corruption continues to be an issue in our state, I can promise you that the US Attorney’s Office will be here to root it out, prosecute it, and ensure that justice is done. I want to personally thank Kemper County Sheriff James Moore for coming forward and working with us to catch those who violate our corruption laws,” said US Attorney Mike Hurst after the indictments were handed down last year.
Each Face Up to 15 Years
The men also are accused of bribing Christopher Epps, the then-corrections commissioner, with $2,000 in cash in October 2014, and promising additional enticements.
According to the US Attorney’s Office, Epps was convicted of taking nearly $1.5 million in bribes from contractors. After admitting guilt to money laundering and filing a false tax return in 2015, he was sentenced to 19 years and seven months in prison in May 2017.
Each of the four indicted in the bribery case face two charges each. They face up to 15 years in prison, fines of up to $250,000 each, and a supervised release of up to three years.
All four men are currently out on bail until the Oct. 2 hearing.
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