GULFPORT, Miss.- Mississippi Gulf Coast businessman Robert Simmons was sentenced Thursday for his role in the Mississippi Department of Corrections bribery scandal involving Commissioner Christopher Epps.
He was sentenced by Judge Sul Ozerden to 87 months in prison and a $10,000 fine. The judge said he took into consideration Simmons’ clean record prior to this incident, length employment, and sincere regret over his offense.
According to a press release on the sentencing:
“By virtue of Simmons’ relationship with the commissioner and supervisor and the kickbacks which he paid to both, he was successful in securing and keeping contracts with both governmental entities. Specifically, from 2012 through August 2014, Simmons was paid $4,000 a month as a consultant for Sentinel Offender Services, L.L.C. (Sentinel). Since 2012, Sentinel was under contract with the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) to provide services to aid in the monitoring and managing of offenders sentenced to probation or parole. Simmons deposited a portion of his monthly pay, a kickback of $1400, directly into the bank account of Christopher Epps, the Commissioner of the MDOC, at bank branch locations along the Mississippi Gulf Coast.”
Just moments before he was sentenced, Simmons apologized to the court, his wife, and anyone who was affected by his decisions in the scheme.
Simmons worked for a consultant company who were awarded contracts with MDOC in exchange for kickbacks.
“From approximately 2005 through 2011, Health Assurance L.L.C. contracted with the Harrison County Jail to provide inmate medical services. The owner of Health Assurance L.L.C. paid Simmons a consulting fee which, at the end of the contract, was as high as $10,000 a month. Throughout this period of time, Simmons made payments in the amount of $2,000 a month to a Harrison County Supervisor for assistance provided in securing the contract at the Harrison County Jail for inmate medical service.”