Chris Epps, the former Commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections, pleaded not guilty on Thursday to bribery, money laundering and wire fraud charges involving potentially hundreds of millions of tax payers’ dollars detailed in a 49-page indictment, reports the Clarion Ledger.
Epps, who was a 32 year veteran and the MDOC commissioner for 12 years before he resigned, and alleged co-conspirator Cecil McCrory, president of the Rankin County school board and a former judge and state legislator, had each been arrested and released on $25,000 bond.
Epps and McCrory are accused of orchestrating an extensive kickback scheme that included McCrory paying for Epps’ homes, cars and other luxury items in exchange for MDOC contracts for McCrory’s numerous businesses.
The Clarion Ledger reports:
Prosecutors say Mississippi’s longtime prisons chief was living high, buying beachfront condos and fancy cars, raking in so much in bribes he had to launder the money.
Epps is accused of taking more than $1 million in bribes and kickbacks over the last eight years in exchange for hundreds of millions of dollars in prison contracts. McCrory, who owned companies doing business with MDOC, is accused of bribing Epps and raking in cash from sweetheart contracts and consulting fees.
Authorities say Epps and McCrory hatched their conspiracy in 2007. Epps signed a no-bid MDOC contract for McCrory’s company, G.T. Enterprises, to provide commissary services at state and private prisons.
Epps allegedly shook down McCrory for cash payments of $3,000 to $4,000 each about 15 times in exchange for the contract.
In 2008, McCrory sold his commissary company at a big profit, and Epps approved reassignment of the no-bid contract to the new company. Shortly after, authorities say, Epps had McCrory pay off his home mortgage with three $100,000 cashier’s checks and a $50,000 check all spaced months apart.
Epps awarded more MDOC contracts to companies owned by McCrory or that had paid McCrory. Prosecutors say that after McCrory paid off Epps’ home, Epps told McCrory he could get anything he wanted from MDOC.
Epps also had McCrory pay on his mortgage on a Coast beachfront condo, help him when he upgraded to a better condo, and deposit money into investment accounts Epps created. In one case, a payment of $40,000 to an Epps investment account was labeled as a consignment sale of farm equipment.
The federal government seeks to seized close to $1 million of Epps’ assets, including “a $360,000 home, a $250,000 luxury beachfront condo, a 2007 Mercedes-Benz S65 V12 AMG and a 2010 Mercedes-Benz S550 and all funds deposited into two Edward Jones accounts.
Epps claims that he is “shocked by this.”
Trial for both Epps and McCrory is set for January 5th, 2015.