(WJTV) – Two men have been charged in connection with the Mississippi Department of Corrections contract scandal involving former Commissioner Christopher Epps.
The Department of Justice said 69-year-old Irb Benjamin of Madison 61-year-old and Sam Waggoner, of Carthage,were charged Friday with paying bribes and kickbacks to former MDOC Commissioner Epps in exchange for receiving contracts involving the MDOC and its operations.
Both men are scheduled to make their initial appearances in federal court Friday at 1:30 p.m.
Benjamin was charged in a three count indictment returned by a federal grand jury with conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud and with two counts of bribery. Waggoner was charged by Criminal Information with one count of bribery related to his payments of bribes and kickbacks to Epps from sometime in 2012 until at least August 26, 2014.
According to the indictment ragainst Benjamin, from some time in 2010 until September, 2014 Benjamin gave Epps bribes and kickbacks in exchange for Epps awarding or directing the awarding of MDOC contracts to Benjamin’s company, Mississippi Correctional Management. MCM provides alcohol and drug treatment services to inmates at MDOC work centers in Alcorn and Simpson Counties. MCM was paid about $774,000.00 from those contracts.
The indictment alleges that Benjamin paid Epps for Epps’ help in getting MCM consulting contracts with Alcorn, Washington and Chickasaw Counties. Those contracts involved Benjamin providing consulting services during the construction and the subsequent operation of three regional corrections facilities. Benjamin purportedly provided consulting services to assist the regional corrections facilities in obtaining and maintaining accreditation by the American Correctional Association.
The contract with Alcorn County paid MCM about $399,260.00; the contract with Washington County paid MCM about $245,080.00; and, the contract with Chickasaw County paid MCM about $217,900.00.
The indictment also alleges that Benjamin paid Epps monthly kickbacks from the consultant fees Benjamin received from Carter Gobal Lee Facility Management , after CGL obtained a contract in 2014 to provide maintenance services to MDOC facilities. Officials said Epps used his influence over CGL to get Benjamin the job as a consultant for CGL. The value of the CGL contract was $4,800,000.
Officials said Waggoner was a consultant for Global Tel-Link, which provided telephone services at MDOC facilities. Authorities said there were two specific instances in 2014 where Waggoner paid Epps kickbacks from money Waggoner received from GTL as a consultant.
“The abuse of power and position by public officials has plagued our state for many years,” said Harold Brittain, Acting U.S. Attorney in this case. “Our tolerance for public corruption is zero. We will hold accountable under the law everyone who bears the responsibility of public service and sells the trust that has been bestowed upon them. We will not tolerate such fraud and abuses by public officials that have cost our citizens so dearly.”
“We will continue to fight public corruption in Mississippi and work with our partners,” said State Auditor Pickering. “Our agents and this team are working daily to identify and bring charges against all individuals associated with the Mississippi Department of Corrections case. I’d like to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office, FBI, IRS, and the U.S. Postal Service for a joint effort in this ongoing case.”
Waggoner faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000.00 fine, as well as forfeiture of the proceeds he obtained as a result of the illegal conduct.
Benjamin faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000.00 fine for the conspiracy count, and a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000.00 fine for each of the bribery counts. Benjamin also faces the forfeiture of his ill-gotten gains.