Biloxi man sentenced for kickback scheme involving former MDOC Commissioner Chris Epps

Robert Simmons (Courtesy of the Sun Herald)

GULFPORT, Miss. (WJTV) — A Biloxi businessman is sentenced to serve 87 months in prison for his involvement in a kickback scheme with former Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps.

According to Mississippi’s Southern District of the U.S. Attorney’s office, 60-year-old Robert Simmons will also have three years of supervised release after his prison sentenced is completed and pay a $10,000.

Acting U.S. Attorney Harold Brittain and FBI Special Agent in Charge Donald Alway made the announcement about Simmons’ sentence Thursday.

Simmons is accused of paying money to Epps and a Harrison County supervisor in exchange for contracts with the state and county.

Officials said from 2012 through August 2014, Simmons was paid $4,000 a month as a consultant for Sentinel Offender Services. Since 2012, Sentinel was under contract with MDOC to provide services for monitoring and managing offenders sentenced to probation or parole.

Simmons allegedly deposited a portion of his monthly pay, a kickback of $1400, directly into the bank account of Epps.

AJA Management and Technical Services provided construction management services to the MDOC for the construction of the $40 million expansion to the East Mississippi Correctional Facility and a $40 million expansion to the Walnut Grove Youth Correctional Facility. Throughout the18 month period of construction, Simmons received a monthly consulting fee from AJA of $10,000. Every month, a portion of Simmons’ consulting fee was paid Epps, according to officials.

Also, From 2005 through 2011, Health Assurance contracted with the Harrison County Jail to provide inmate medical services. The owner of Health Assurance is accused of paying Simmons a consulting fee which, at the end of the contract, was as high as $10,000 a month. Simmons made payments of $2,000 a month to a Harrison County Supervisor for assistance provided in securing the contract at the Harrison County Jail.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Golden.

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