Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Coast "consultant" helped Epps run a statewide corruption train

Read February 27, 2015 post that spelled out this scheme.

A bill of information filed in U.S. District Court Thursday gives more details on the suicide of a Harrison County supervisor a year ago.  The bill provides an interesting picture of how MDOC Commissioner Chris Epps, Supervisor William Martin, and "consultant" Robert Simmons conjured up a scheme to award contracts and pay kickbacks in Harrison County.  The Simmons-Epps corruption train even made stops in East Mississippi as well.   The bill charges Simmons with one count of bribery.

MDOC Scheme

 Sentinel Offender Services, LLC paid Harrison County bidnessman Robert Simmons a $4,000 a month consulting fee.  Simmons started paying $1,400 per month into the bank account of MDOC Commissioner Chris Epps in July  2012.  The bill of information called the payments "kickbacks or bribes".   However, the California company was not the only kickback gig for Simmons.

AJA Management and Technical Services paid Simmons a $10,000 per month "consulting fee".  Epps received a share of the monthly payments.  The company had a contract to manage construction services for expansion of the East Mississippi Correctional Facility and Walnut Grove Youth Correctional facility.  Another company "obtained a contract" to perform work at the two facilities and paid Simmons a "consulting fee" for ten months.  Simmons paid Epps 20 um, kickbacks during the ten-month term.   Simmons is the third such consultant nailed by the feds in the MDOC scandal.  Irb Benjamin and Cecil McCrory have also been busted for acting as "consultants" and paying kickbacks. Flora-based AJA is owned by none other than Andrew Jenkins

Harrison County and Health Assurance

However, those two contracts were small potatoes compared to the Health Assurance scandal in Harrison County.  Health Assurance provides medical services to correctional facilities.  It had a contract to provide such services to the Harrison County jail from 2005 to 2011. Health Assurance, LLC is owned by physicians Carl and Michael Reddix and is located on Ridgewood Road in Jackson.  It was formed in 2001. The registered agent is attorney Charlene Priester although Judge Melvin Priester served in that capacity in previous years prior to his election to the bench.*

The bill of information states "the owner of Health Assurance" paid Simmons up to $10,000 per month   as a "consulting fee".   The owner is Carl Reddix.   Simmons then paid $2,000 a month to "a Harrison County Supervisor for assistance in securing the contract at the Harrison County Jail for inmate medical services".    The bill states "a duly elected supervisor of Harrison County.. exercised influence in the awarding of contracts with Harrison County, Mississippi."

Supervisor William Martin was indicted a year ago for playing a part in this scheme.  However, he committed suicide a few hours before he was scheduled to appear in court for an arraignment. JJ will go on the record and state that the unnamed supervisor is Lawrence. Simmons made combined payments of at least $5,000 per month to Epps from 2005 to 2014.

The Health Assurance scheme, Martin, and Reddix

JJ reported on February 27, 2015:

Harrison County awarded a contract to Health Assurance, LLC in 2004 for the provision of medical services at county correctional facilities. See page 92 of the minutes. 

Supervisor Martin seconded the motion to award the contract to the company and usually seconded motions whenenever the motions where favorable to Health Assurance. Mr. Martin was the only black member of the Harrison County Board of Supervisors.   Seethespending.org records state that Harrison County paid Health Assurance, LLC over $14.6 million from 2005 to 2012 for services provided to the county jail and youth detention center.

  Harrison County paid Health Assurance the following amounts of money each year:

FY 2012: $2.0 million
FY 2011: $2.4 million
FY 2010: $1.9 million
FY 2009: $1.9 million
FY 2008: $1.9 million
FY 2007: $1.5 million
FY 2006: $1.2 million
FY 2005: $1.7 million
FY 2004: $0.0

The county terminated the contract in July 2012.

 The Martin indictment states:

That from on or about January 2005 through on or about August 2012,  in Harrison County, in the Southern Division of the Southern District of Mississippi and elsewhere, that the defendant, William Martin, did corruptly solicit, demand, accept, and agree to accept multiple things of value from a person, intending to be influenced and rewarded in connection with a transaction and series of transactions of Harrison County, involving a thing of value of $5,000 or more.
This time period just happens to be the exact same time period when Harrison County made payments to Health Assurance financial.   Sources on the Gulf Coast told JJ that State Auditor representatives copied records regarding medical contracts for Harrison County as well as travel and other records for Mr. Martin.

*Keep in mind Hinds County District 1 Supervisor Robert Graham fought long and hard to keep a Reddix contract with the Hinds County Sheriff's Office.  He also fought to reinstate the contract last year to provide medical services to the Hinds County Detention Centers.

 Kingfish note: The bill of information means he waived indictment.  Based on previous experience of watching these cases, we will probably get a guilty plea sometime soon from Simmons.

Oh, read the February 27, 2015 post about the Harrison County scandal and ask why the media ignored it for so long.  JJ obtained the story through law enforcement sources and public documents. Most of the information came from hours spent reviewing public documents.  The media ignored this story.  Not one word was mentioned about it on Twitter but for Anita Lee of the Sun-Herald. The rest of the media couldn't be bothered.  They would rather wait a year for everything to be spelled out and spoon-fed to them in a bill of information. 


Anonymous said...

Professional middle men to handle payoffs and bribes. This has become so part of our system we sometime forget that this is not legal. Throw in the use of minority quotas and the unneeded middle man almost looks legal. This is rotten to the core and form of stealing public money. Lock them all up.

Anonymous said...

Oh, please tell me this leads back to 'the legend' Graham and the other corrupt Hinds County politicos (Priester, Jenkins, etal).

Anonymous said...

11:09 If you look hard enough many elected officals will be involved but the trail will go cold when those like Robert take the fall for all others so he will be cared for when he get out.

Anonymous said...

A lawyer for Robert Simmons confirms that he plans to plead guilty to a criminal charge that says he bribed former Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps and a Harrison County supervisor


Anonymous said...

There must be some underground school in Mississippi where you go to get a CONsulting degree.Or is this being taught within the offices of state and federal government? There have been several individuals in the news lately that have learn the art of this consulting chicanery at MDA,DEQ,Govenors office ect.Some have been indicted and others need to be.If you desired Bennie Thompson's help on anything, hiring CONsultant Robert Simmons would get you a sit down.Additional payments to this CONsultant could get you consideration but no guarentee.Sort of like winning the biggest stuffed teddy bear at the county fair. One thing is for certain.Referring to yourself as a consultant in this day in time is like saying you are a member of an organized crime family. Even mafia members do a better job of hiding what they do.

Anonymous said...

Good Fellas

Anonymous said...

What's this?


Anonymous said...

The man doing the bribing is guilty. What about those who took the bribe?

Anonymous said...

How far up the ladder will this go. Who was Epps boss?

Anonymous said...

This may not go any further up the ladder than Epps. Reminds me of the 1988 movie "The Blob" which was about a growing corrosive alien amoeba that oozed across the land mass.This scandal will spread across the state like a blob and infect 50 plus counties before it is over.

Anonymous said...

Might be a scandal but it won't end up with anymore people having to go to court. People actually believe the politicians are honest. Many still believe in the tooth fairy.

Anonymous said...

The Ocean Springs bloggers are active in J-town!

Anonymous said...

What bidness name did Robert Simmons conduct his bribery bidness under?

It would be one thing if these named companies were cutting checks to a consultant with some official sounding business name. Such as "GOB Lobbying INC" or "Grease Me Consulting INC". If these businesses were cutting the checks to a Gulf Coast car wash, or an individual, that might tend to lessen their plausible deniability.

As a matter of fact, it seems a little difficult to find much information on this Robert Simmons. There was a Robert Simmons who claimed to be an influential Gulf Coast casino lobbyist in an NPR interview. Unknown if this is the same Robert Simmons.

BURNETT: In addition to frequenting the blackjack table, Robert Simmons is a lobbyist for the casinos.

Mr. SIMMONS: We call these the big engines - the casinos - and I was very much a part of having get them reestablished and making - working with the governor and the legislature that it was about pumping money into the economy. We really need that.

BURNETT: Remember of Biloxi after the storm with the casino barge sitting beside Highway 90? Mississippi was afraid Katrina would chase away the industry which is the state's largest taxpayer and employer. So the legislature passed a special law allowing the casinos to move from their floating barges to permanent land-based operations at the water's edge. With that decision, the gaming industry hit the jackpot.


Anonymous said...

8:09 That be him.

Anonymous said...

What about Jackson County and the ADC?

Anonymous said...

This company, Medical Assurance,currently provides "probation" and "drug/alcohol rehab" services to offenders in Jackson Muncipal court. It's beyond me how the city of Jackson would allow them to continue to operate anywhere near the city. Maybe they are bribing judges and/or prosecutors too?!

Anonymous said...

Will the officers of Health Assurance, LLC be indicted? Drs. Carl and Michael Reddix? Attorneys Melvin and Charlene Priester?

Pay Attention You People said...

Stay on point. Back to Epps. This is all about Epps. People didn't just show up one day and decide to 'bribe' him. He put the whole thing in motion and laid out a door mat that said WELCOME. The law may call it a bribe, but nobody bribed his ass.

Anonymous said...

That's Health (not medical) Assurance. Obviously a play on health insurance and apparently, just as crooked!

Anonymous said...

Some of the contracts and filings show Robert Simmons doing business as the President and employee of "The Simmons Network" and/or other variations.

For example, the March 2010 Consulting Agreement where the Harrison County Sheriff hired Robert E. Simmons for $1,500 per month plus expenses to consult and lobby. Approval of this contract was moved by Kim Savant and seconded by the late William Martin. Contract also at link. It might have been hard for those two to say no to this contract, whether or not it was their idea.

Agenda item read as:
ORDER approving a one year consulting agreement by and between the Sheriff of Harrison County and Robert E. Simmons, d/b/a The Simmons Network (Consultant) to seek grants, funding sources and other assistance for the Sheriff's Department, at a fixed rate of $1,500.00 per month, effective March 8, 2010, and authorizing the Sheriff and the Board President to execute same.

When Simmons filed his federal lobbyist registration to lobby for Mississippi State Port Authority it was "The Simmons Network" as seen here.

No such business filing was located at the Mississippi Secretary of State website either by searching for Robert Simmons as an officer, or Simmons Network as the business name.

Anonymous said...

Good question 10:13. Chris Epps appeared in front of the Jackson County Board of Supervisors on January 25,2011 along with others who basically redirected the design and construction of the new Jackson County Jail after millions had been spent.Who benefited financially? Maxwell-Walker Consultants represented a contractor who was after the work. Was the same kickback scheme in place with different folks getting paid like in Harrison County? We know supervisor William Martin was on the take. Did any Jackson County supervisor get paid as a "consultant" like Martin? Lots of unanswered questions.

Anonymous said...

Epps had three bosses; Gov's Ronnie Musgrove, Haley Barbour and Phil Bryant. Wonder who received some tainted and or under the table campaign money. They knew how much Epps made as Commish and turned a blind eye on his balling/spending.
There is a cat on the line way up is state Government! As JT and Dave on Super Talk , would say, " were from the government and were here to help you'".

Anonymous said...

This is an appeal to Mr Epps, please don't do this Federal time alone, go ahead and testify against your bosses. No wonder you were the longest serving Commissioner for over three Administrations. " you were good Mr Epps, but not that good".

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