Friday, October 30, 2020

Louisiana businessmen plead guilty to bribing Kemper County sheriff

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Four Louisiana businessmen pleaded guilty Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate to conspiring to pay bribes to former Mississippi Department of Corrections 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, announced U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst and Special Agent in Charge Michelle Sutphin with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Mississippi.

Michale LeBlanc, Sr., 71, of Baton Rouge; Tawasky Ventry, 60, of Opelousas; Michael LeBlanc, Jr., 42, of Prairieville; and Jacque Jackson, 51, of LaPlace, attempted to bribe Epps and 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 corruptions a priority, and we will continue working with all of our partners to end corruption throughout our state,” Hurst said.

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On Oct. 16, 2014, LeBlanc, Sr. spoke with a confidential informant about his intent to put something in the hands of Epps that would help LeBlanc, Sr. obtain MDOC and county contracts. During the conversation, he said that he would let his business partner in American Phone Systems, Ventroy, meet with Epps because they were both African American.

On Oct. 21, 2014, Ventroy traveled to Jackson and met Epps in his office. Ventroy provided Epps with a $2,000 cash bribe. The payment was to influence 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 Brothers Commissary and American Phone Systems in Kemper County.

On Dec. 8, 2014, 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, Moore met Jackson in the men’s restroom of the casino in Biloxi. Jackson gave 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.

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Jackson told Moroe that he would provide another $1,000 once the contract was awarded. On Jan. 16, 2015, when confronted by the FBI, Jackson admitted to passing the $2,000 in casino chips to Moore in exchange for his assistance with securing the lucrative contracts.

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

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