Ex-Miss. State Senator |to Plead Guilty to Bribery

      (CN) – Former State Sen. Irb Benjamin has decided to plead guilty in an ongoing Mississippi prison contract bribery scandal, a federal court filing says.
     Benjamin’s lawyer, Joe Hollomon, filed notice Friday that the former senator will change his plea to guilty when he appears before U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate on Oct. 18.
     Benjamin was indicted in August 2015 on charges of paying bribes to former Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps.
     Benjamin faces one count of honest services wire fraud and two counts of bribery.
     According to the indictment, Benjamin gave Epps bribes and kickbacks in exchange for the state selecting his company, Mississippi Correctional Management, to provide drug and alcohol treatment services to inmates at state work centers in Alcorn and Simpson counties.
     The company collected about $774,000, the court documents say.
     The indictment also claims that Benjamin paid Epps in exchange for Epps’ helping the company obtain consulting contracts worth a total of $862,000 in for regional jails operated in Alcorn, Washington and Chickasaw counties.
     The indictment claims Benjamin made regular cash payments of $1,000 to $2,000 to Epps beginning in 2010, and that for three months in 2014m in exchange for Epps’ influence.
     It also says that for three months in 2014, Benjamin was getting $2,000 a month from the company and passing on $600 to Epps.
     If he pleads guilty to all three charges when he appears in the federal court in Jackson, Miss., he could face up to 40 years in prison and up to $750,000 in fines.
     Epps faces up to 23 years after pleading guilty to money laundering and filing false tax returns related to $1.47 million in bribes prosecutors say he took.
     Epps’ sentencing has been delayed. No date for it has been set.

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