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JACKSON – Federal prosecutors said Wednesday they expect more criminal charges in the $1.4 million bribery-kickback scandal surrounding former state prisons chief Christopher Epps.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office told the court overseeing the Epps case to expect the charges by July 18, which was set as Epps’ sentence day.
Jackson attorney John Colette, representing Epps at Wednesday’s status update, said prosecutors told Judge Henry Wingate that 10 more individuals will be ensnared by the investigation.
But Colette also noted that some may not be indictments, which come from a grand jury, but what’s called “bills of information,” which are direct charges by the U.S. government without going through a grand jury.
Last February, Epps pleaded guilty with Rankin County businessman Cecil McCrory to illegal acts associated with vendor contracts with the Mississippi Department of Corrections, which Epps oversaw.
McCrory’s attorney Carlos Tanner again told the court he plans to seek a reversal of McCrory’s guilty plea. Tanner did not represent McCrory when the plea was entered.
Disposition of the Epps case has hung up as prosecutors seek to increase the value of “loss” the state experienced from Epps’ bribery in return for choosing contractors for a wide range of services to the Department of Corrections. Colette insists they are wrong and wants the court to use information it already has to determine his client’s sentence.
A third co-defendant, Carthage businessman Sam Waggoner, pleaded guilty to one count of bribery in the case amounting to more than $108,000 and has not been sentenced.
A fourth person, former north Mississippi senator Irb Benjamin, awaits trial July 5 on federal accusations he bribed Epps to gain contracts for inmate drug and alcohol treatment, as well as Epps’ help getting additional prison-related work. Earlier this week, Benjamin’s attorney asked to delay his trial.