Four men have been sentenced for bribery in the ongoing saga revolving around former MDOC Commissioner Christopher Epps.
Four Louisiana businessmen have been indicted and arrested for conspiracy, paying bribes, and attempting to pay bribes to former Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Christopher B. Epps and current Kemper County Sheriff James Moore in exchange for receiving contracts involving the MDOC and a regional detention facility located in Kemper County, announced U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst and Christopher Freeze, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Mississippi.
*According to Hurst, Sheriff Moore voluntarily assisted the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and was never a subject of this investigation.
A three-count indictment returned by a federal grand jury in September charges the four businessmen with conspiracy to defraud the United States, and bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds. They are identified as:
- Michael LeBlanc Sr., 70, of Baton Rouge, La.
- Michael LeBlanc Jr., 40, of Prairieville, La.
- Tawasky L. Ventroy, 59, of Opelousas, La.
- Jacque B. Jackson, 50, of Laplace, La.
Between 2012 and 2015, the four are alleged to have conspired to pay bribes to former MDOC Commissioner Epps and Kemper County Sheriff Moore.
In 2017, Epps was sentenced to serve 19 years in prison after was accused of accepting nearly $1.4 million worth of bribes in return for state prison contracts.
“As long as public corruption continues to be an issue in our state, I can promise you that the U.S. Attorney’s Office will be here to root it out, prosecute it, and ensure that justice is done. I want to personally thank Kemper County Sheriff James Moore for coming forward and working with us to catch those who violate our corruption laws,” said U.S. Attorney Hurst.
According to the indictment, LeBlanc Sr., LeBlanc Jr., Ventroy and Jackson were associated with Brothers Commissary Services and American Phone Systems, both located in Louisiana but operating in the state of Mississippi.
The indictment states that LeBlanc Sr. allegedly used corrupt means in an attempt to secure lucrative jail and detention facility contracts for commissary and other services throughout Mississippi. Ventroy worked for LeBlanc Sr. to help secure the contracts.
According to the indictment, in October 2014, LeBlanc Sr. called Epps to confirm Ventroy would be meeting with Epps. Ventroy brought a $2,000 cash bribe or gratuity to former Commissioner Epps.
LeBlanc Sr. and Ventroy also agreed to give “something of value of $5,000 or more” with the intent to influence Epps for awarding and retention of the contracts for LeBlanc Sr.’s company for inmate commissary services.
The indictment alleges that LeBlanc Jr. used corrupt means in an attempt to secure lucrative jail contracts for commissary and inmate telephone services with the Kemper County Regional Correctional Facility and elsewhere. Jackson worked for LeBlanc Jr. to help secure the contracts.
According to the indictment, in December 2014, LeBlanc Jr. obtained $2,000 in casino chips at a Biloxi casino. LeBlanc Jr. provided a minimum of four $500 chips to Jackson.
Jackson gave Sheriff Moore a total of $2,000 in casino chips in the men’s restroom of the casino because the inside of the restroom was not covered by casino surveillance cameras. LeBlanc Jr. and Jackson also agreed to give “something of value of $5,000 or more” with the intent to influence Moore for awarding and retention of the contracts for LeBlanc Jr.’s company for inmate telephone and commissary services at the Kemper County Regional Correctional Facility.
Each will appear for their arraignment before a judge in Mississippi, on October 16.
LeBlanc Sr. and Ventroy are charged in Counts 1 and 2, which carry a maximum sentence of imprisonment of 5 years and 10 years each, respectively. LeBlanc Jr. and Jackson are charged in Counts 1 and 3, which also carries a maximum sentence of imprisonment of 5 years and 10 years each, respectively. Each count carries a fine of up to $250,000 and up to three years of supervised release.