Friday, October 4, 2019

4 Plead Guilty in Chris Epps Case

The Justice Department issued the following statement.

Four Louisiana businessmen pled guilty yesterday before U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate to conspiring to pay bribes to former Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) Commissioner Christopher B. Epps and current Kemper County Sheriff James Moore in exchange for receiving contracts involving MDOC and a regional detention facility located in Kemper County, Mississippi, announced U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst and Special Agent in Charge Michelle Sutphin with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Mississippi.

Michael LeBlanc, Sr., 71, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Tawasky Ventroy, 60, of Opelousas, Louisiana, Michael LeBlanc, Jr., 42, of Prairieville, Louisiana, and Jacque Jackson, 51, of LaPlace, Louisiana, attempted to bribe former Commissioner Epps and Sheriff Moore who were both assisting the FBI at the time of the investigation. The four men paid the bribes in an attempt to secure lucrative contracts in commissary and inmate calling services. The men were associated with Brothers Commissary Services and American Phone Systems, both located in Louisiana but operating in the state of Mississippi.

“Mississippians are sick and tired of corruption, and those who bribe our public officials will soon find themselves in a federal indictment. This office has made fighting public corruption a priority, and we will continue working with all of our partners to end corruption throughout our state,” said U.S. Attorney Hurst.

On October 16, 2014, LeBlanc, Sr. spoke with a confidential informant about his intent to put something in the hands of former Commissioner Epps that would help LeBlanc, Sr. obtain MDOC and County contracts. During the conversation, he stated that he would let his business partner in American Phone Systems, Tawasky Ventroy, meet with former Commissioner Epps because they were both  African Americans. On October 21, 2014, Tawaksy Ventroy traveled to Jackson and met former Commissioner Epps in his office.

Ventroy provided former Commissioner Epps with a $2,000 cash bribe. The payment was to influence former Commissioner Epps into helping American Phone Systems receive contracts in state corrections facilities.

During this same time, LeBlanc, Jr. and his business partner, Jackson, were trying to secure contracts for Brother’s Commissary and American Phone Systems in Kemper County. On December 8, 2019, while attending the Mississippi Sheriff’s Conference, LeBlanc, Jr. retrieved $2,000 worth of casino chips from a table game and provided the chips to Jackson. At Jackson’s request, Sheriff Moore met Jackson in the men’s restroom of the casino in Biloxi, Mississippi. Jackson gave Sheriff Moore the casino chips to influence him into helping Jackson and LeBlanc, Jr. secure the contracts for commissary and inmate calling services in Kemper County. Jackson told Sheriff Moore that he would provide another $1,000 once the contract was awarded. On January 16, 2015, when confronted by the FBI, Jackson admitted to passing the $2,000 in casino chips to Sheriff Moore in exchange for
his assistance with securing the lucrative contracts.

The defendants will be sentenced by Judge Wingate on February 10, 2020 at 10:00 a.m. They each face a maximum penalty of five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.

The case was investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by First Assistant United States Attorney Darren LaMarca and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathlyn R. Van Buskirk.


Anonymous said...

These delightful humanoids are the very lowest vermin at the bottom of the pond. "Lucrative contracts" indeed. Commissary and inmate calling services to a truly captive audience. One can delight all he wants in thugs being punished but these lice punish families and children, old grannies that still love cute little Doofus even though he's a sociopath. It's a cinch little Doofus can't earn the $8 1/2 per minute or whatever the going rate is for phoning home.

Hang 'em high.

Anonymous said...

"US Attorney's Office"........

Meanwhile, the state Attorney General's Office is nowhere to be found.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like classic entrapment to me. Epps was then working with the FBI? And he was credible?

Anonymous said...

"Meanwhile, the state Attorney General's Office is nowhere to be found."

Maybe because these are federal matters and federal prosecutions.

Anonymous said...

Another good conviction by our state's Attorney General. Congra......

Oh wait. Again, this corruption wasn't discovered, investigated, or prosecuted by Jim Hood now was it?

What was the problem? We're they too much "like family"? Or was he too busy abusing the power of his office by filing criminal cases to help his lawyer buddies in their mass tort cases?

Or maybe he just couldn't see across the street from his office where Epps was cutting all these deals. No wait - that couldn't be it eithe since he decided that despite being a statewide elected official he deserved to have the state rent office space from his daddy so he could live in Chickasaw County and doesn't come to his Diller Building office anymore.

Oh well, we can be thankful that Mike Hurst has been appointed to take care of prosecuting this corruption. Glad somebody is there to do it since Jim is too busy riding around NE MS in his pickup to come in and work at his day job.

Anonymous said...

The ROI wasn’t worth it for Jim to pursue...... That lease payment on the pickup truck isn’t going to pay for itself out of the campaign kitty

Anonymous said...

Looks like Tater's Tots are patrolling JJ.

Anonymous said...

These are federal indictments since the investigations are being and have been handled in the realm of federal jurisdiction. Get off Hood's back! He's got water bottles to be passing out.

Anonymous said...

2:26 - nice try but wrong. Yes, the Feds did take over because of the failure of the state to deal with this crime.

The feds could claim some jurisdiction and act, BUT it certainly was a state crime by a state official acting in his official state office. The AG could have acted if he had chosen to, but of course he was too tied up in negotiating deals with his trial lawyer benefactors for them to sue somebody. There was no money to be made by Hood if he went after Epps, so he didn't. (Although the other reason could have been Chris was 'like family' - his famous reason for not going after Scruggs for bribing state judges and other high crimes.)

Anonymous said...

2:56 - nice try but wrong. Wire and mail fraud, money laundering, certain banking crimes and other interstate crimes are federal, not state crimes. Not to mention the 'meshing' of federal with state funds, by Epps and others. Then there's the issue of Hood having an Assistant Attorney General assigned directly to Epps as has been standard for years.

Sure, Hood might (could) have gotten involved and fumbled the ball into the wrong end-zone, but the Feds were the proper place to get this investigated and handled.

And imagine, if you will, Lynn Fitch investigating and attempting to resolve an issue such as Epps.

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Trollfest '07 was such a success that Jackson Jambalaya will once again host Trollfest '09. Catch this great event which will leave NE Jackson & Fondren in flames. Othor Cain and his band, The Black Power Structure headline the night while Sonjay Poontang returns for an encore performance. Former Frank Melton bodyguard Marcus Wright makes his premier appearance at Trollfest singing "I'm a Sweet Transvestite" from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Kamikaze will sing his new hit, “How I sold out to da Man.” Robbie Bell again performs: “Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be Bells” and “Any friend of Ed Peters is a friend of mine”. After the show, Ms. Bell will autograph copies of her mug shot photos. In a salute to “Dancing with the Stars”, Ms. Bell and Hinds County District Attorney Robert Smith will dance the Wango Tango.

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This is definitely a Beaver production.

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