4 Louisiana men to plead guilty in Mississippi bribe scheme

Four Louisiana men say they'll plead guilty to charges that they tried to bribe a Mississippi sheriff with $2,000 in casino chips, seeking lucrative jail contracts.

Posted: Aug 18, 2019 5:54 PM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) -- Four Louisiana men say they'll plead guilty to charges that they tried to bribe a Mississippi sheriff with $2,000 in casino chips, seeking lucrative jail contracts.

Michael LeBlanc Sr. of Baton Rouge, Michael LeBlanc Jr. of Prairieville, Tawasky Ventroy of Opelousas and Jacque Jones of LaPlace have filed notices this month in federal court in Jackson saying they will change their previous not guilty pleas.

All are accused of scheming to win contracts to sell inmates phone service and commissary goods at a jail in Mississippi's Kemper County. They're also accused of paying former Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps $2,000 and promising him future bribes to secure his help in influencing sheriffs, especially those with regional jails overseen by the state. Epps was convicted of taking more than $1.4 million in bribes from private contractors and is serving a nearly 20-year federal prison sentence in Texas.

U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate has set an Oct. 2 plea hearing in Jackson for the four men, who all remain free on bail.

The September indictments were a long-delayed continuation of the corruption investigation surrounding Epps. The conspiracy and bribery charges would carry sentences of up to 15 years in prison. Court papers don't say to which charges the four will plead.

The elder LeBlanc started out in the prison industry as an architect, but branched into other services and once was an owner of a large private prison company. Federal prosecutors say the elder LeBlanc talked to Epps in October 2014, hoping to win contracts for phone and commissary services. By then, Epps was already cooperating with the FBI. Private vendors sell phone calls and goods to prisoners.

Epps had a history of pushing particular vendors, some of whom were bribing him, according to authorities. Prosecutors say Ventroy, a LeBlanc employee, delivered a $2,000 cash bribe to Epps later in October 2014.

Then, Michael LeBlanc Jr. met with Kemper County Sheriff James Moore. What they didn't know, according to the indictment, is that Moore was working undercover for the FBI when he took $2,000 in casino chips from the younger LeBlanc in a Biloxi casino restroom in December 2014. The indictment alleges Moore was promised additional future bribes.

The elder LeBlanc designed at least five jails in the state. Development of two jails — in Alcorn and Chickasaw counties — was spearheaded by former state Sen. Irb Benjamin. The ex-lawmaker acknowledged bribing Epps to ensure the state would provide enough inmates to make jails financially profitable for the counties. Benjamin remains in federal prison in Arkansas.

LeBlanc previously was an owner of private prison company LCS Corrections Services, selling it to GEO Group for $307 million in 2015. Of the price, $298 million went to repay debt, GEO financial documents show.

LeBlanc and his deceased brother, Patrick, faced scrutiny in San Antonio in 2007 over donations when their company was providing commissary services. The Bexar County sheriff resigned and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges after accepting a free trip to Costa Rica from the LeBlancs. The sheriff's campaign manager pleaded guilty to taking thousands of dollars in charitable donations and campaign contributions, diverting $32,000 to his personal use, according to published accounts. The LeBlancs were never charged in Texas.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 97049

Reported Deaths: 2919
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hinds7148160
DeSoto562361
Harrison388374
Jackson352170
Madison331289
Rankin330879
Lee274870
Forrest250075
Jones249879
Washington225977
Lafayette219340
Lauderdale2064125
Bolivar184766
Oktibbeha180152
Lamar172435
Neshoba1580104
Lowndes157958
Panola150731
Sunflower147346
Leflore141381
Warren140950
Pontotoc127916
Pike124051
Monroe123669
Copiah119233
Scott117627
Coahoma116229
Marshall111117
Lincoln110453
Holmes109859
Grenada109536
Yazoo106230
Simpson104746
Tate100638
Union99824
Leake96138
Adams94237
Wayne90521
Pearl River89453
Marion86835
Prentiss86317
Itawamba83121
Covington82723
Alcorn82311
George78213
Tallahatchie77421
Newton77324
Winston74219
Tishomingo69138
Chickasaw68524
Tippah67217
Attala67025
Clarke60346
Walthall60226
Clay59618
Hancock58822
Jasper57715
Noxubee55116
Smith53615
Calhoun52212
Tunica49715
Claiborne46516
Montgomery46520
Yalobusha43614
Lawrence43313
Perry42419
Greene38717
Humphreys37815
Quitman3775
Stone37512
Jefferson Davis34211
Webster33813
Amite33210
Carroll32012
Wilkinson30518
Kemper29015
Sharkey26613
Jefferson2439
Benton2283
Franklin1933
Choctaw1866
Issaquena1053
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 136055

Reported Deaths: 2364
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Jefferson19752350
Mobile13449292
Montgomery8852184
Tuscaloosa8654118
Madison792778
Shelby601349
Lee592760
Baldwin552650
Marshall396143
Calhoun353444
Etowah352145
Morgan331428
Houston292021
Elmore267348
DeKalb243221
St. Clair233036
Walker231984
Talladega217129
Limestone211920
Cullman190720
Dallas179126
Franklin178129
Autauga177325
Russell17633
Lauderdale172333
Colbert166626
Blount161715
Escambia161124
Chilton158830
Jackson158111
Covington140327
Dale139244
Coffee13596
Pike120510
Chambers116842
Tallapoosa116485
Clarke110016
Marion96829
Butler91339
Barbour8857
Winston74512
Marengo72420
Pickens66614
Bibb65610
Lowndes65427
Randolph65413
Hale64428
Geneva6344
Lawrence62123
Cherokee61213
Bullock60614
Monroe5908
Clay5878
Washington55913
Perry5416
Crenshaw54032
Conecuh53611
Wilcox53211
Henry5075
Macon48318
Fayette4628
Sumter43819
Cleburne3825
Lamar3702
Choctaw35112
Greene30315
Coosa1723
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