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.

Cases: 314710

Reported Deaths: 7254
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto21646260
Hinds20369416
Harrison17949309
Rankin13643278
Jackson13450246
Madison10113217
Lee9986174
Jones8384163
Forrest7689152
Lauderdale7198240
Lowndes6403148
Lamar623686
Lafayette6203119
Washington5341134
Bolivar4802132
Oktibbeha462998
Panola4596107
Pearl River4519146
Marshall4450103
Warren4393121
Pontotoc420872
Monroe4115133
Union411176
Neshoba4031176
Lincoln3969110
Hancock379586
Leflore3498125
Sunflower336290
Tate334784
Pike3327105
Scott316274
Alcorn313368
Yazoo311770
Itawamba300577
Copiah297465
Coahoma295579
Simpson295388
Tippah288768
Adams286982
Prentiss280060
Marion269380
Leake268473
Wayne262841
Grenada261587
Covington259881
George248148
Newton246862
Winston227581
Tishomingo227067
Jasper221148
Attala214473
Chickasaw208057
Holmes189174
Clay185554
Stone182833
Tallahatchie178941
Clarke178080
Calhoun170932
Yalobusha164638
Smith162534
Walthall134245
Greene130633
Lawrence128724
Montgomery127142
Noxubee126734
Perry126338
Amite123142
Carroll121829
Webster114532
Jefferson Davis107133
Tunica105726
Claiborne102430
Benton100025
Humphreys96733
Kemper95828
Franklin83923
Quitman81116
Choctaw76418
Wilkinson67531
Jefferson65728
Sharkey50217
Issaquena1686
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 540083

Reported Deaths: 11038
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson798481529
Mobile41283809
Madison35157506
Tuscaloosa25925455
Shelby25302249
Montgomery24723593
Baldwin21411310
Lee15993172
Calhoun14574319
Morgan14425280
Etowah13925353
Marshall12280225
Houston10648282
Elmore10158206
Limestone10070151
St. Clair9948245
Cullman9768194
Lauderdale9460243
DeKalb8865188
Talladega8341176
Walker7261278
Autauga7005108
Jackson6840112
Blount6773139
Colbert6322135
Coffee5581118
Dale4877113
Russell445738
Chilton4373113
Franklin426382
Covington4138118
Tallapoosa4044153
Escambia394877
Chambers3596123
Dallas3569153
Clarke351561
Marion3140101
Pike312077
Lawrence303098
Winston275873
Bibb264764
Geneva254178
Marengo249865
Pickens234862
Barbour232056
Hale224078
Butler219169
Fayette212862
Henry189943
Cherokee184845
Randolph182542
Monroe178141
Washington167839
Macon161350
Clay157257
Crenshaw153557
Cleburne149641
Lamar143336
Lowndes140653
Wilcox127430
Bullock123242
Conecuh110829
Coosa109228
Perry107826
Sumter105032
Greene92634
Choctaw61024
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