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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: 263023

Reported Deaths: 5752
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto17675191
Hinds16813331
Harrison14224204
Rankin11167219
Jackson10839190
Lee9050144
Madison8568168
Jones6668114
Forrest6177124
Lauderdale6097192
Lowndes5518120
Lafayette516298
Lamar503965
Washington4923125
Bolivar4104109
Oktibbeha405982
Panola384881
Pontotoc376258
Warren3674103
Monroe3671108
Union355663
Marshall355270
Neshoba3485154
Pearl River3468105
Leflore3111109
Lincoln305688
Hancock291862
Sunflower291475
Tate279662
Alcorn272354
Pike268981
Itawamba268063
Scott259648
Yazoo255256
Prentiss252553
Tippah249250
Copiah249049
Coahoma248054
Simpson242171
Leake237367
Grenada223272
Marion222073
Covington219973
Adams213671
Wayne212634
Winston207371
George204339
Newton199046
Attala196963
Tishomingo194161
Chickasaw189044
Jasper179538
Holmes171768
Clay165837
Tallahatchie156235
Stone151425
Clarke147262
Calhoun140822
Smith129226
Yalobusha122034
Walthall114337
Greene113529
Noxubee112926
Montgomery111636
Carroll106622
Lawrence106517
Perry104531
Amite101426
Webster96124
Tunica88821
Claiborne88325
Jefferson Davis88329
Benton85623
Humphreys84624
Kemper80520
Quitman7089
Franklin69917
Choctaw63213
Wilkinson59825
Jefferson56821
Sharkey45117
Issaquena1606
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 439442

Reported Deaths: 6657
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson644371007
Mobile31435569
Madison28158217
Tuscaloosa21492275
Montgomery19873332
Shelby19248132
Baldwin17128189
Lee13137107
Morgan12594142
Etowah12070181
Calhoun11496206
Marshall10420123
Houston8988164
Limestone832081
Cullman8257124
Elmore8183110
DeKalb7871107
Lauderdale7847107
St. Clair7808130
Talladega6445112
Walker6028183
Jackson599145
Colbert548694
Blount546286
Autauga535862
Coffee460764
Dale409685
Franklin374150
Russell354215
Chilton344373
Covington338580
Escambia334544
Tallapoosa3143109
Dallas312996
Chambers303470
Clarke298036
Pike262431
Lawrence253355
Marion253161
Winston233342
Bibb222348
Geneva210247
Marengo208231
Pickens199531
Hale184944
Barbour180538
Fayette177829
Butler173160
Cherokee165131
Henry159525
Monroe152021
Randolph145536
Washington141727
Clay129746
Crenshaw123745
Macon121937
Cleburne121525
Lamar119922
Lowndes114836
Wilcox107922
Bullock103328
Perry99918
Conecuh97822
Sumter90527
Greene77923
Coosa63418
Choctaw51924
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