Former state senator to plead guilty in Epps bribery case

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Former state Sen. Irb Benjamin, who was charged last year in a bribery scandal centering on former Mississippi Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps, walks to the federal courthouse in Jackson June 9, 2016.

AP Photo by Rogelio V. Solis

Former state Sen. Irb Benjamin walks to the federal courthouse in Jackson June 9, 2016.

Former state Sen. Irb Benjamin will plead guilty Oct. 18 to his part in the bribery scandal which rocked the state Department of Corrections in 2015, U.S. District Court records show.

Benjamin, 69, of Madison, was indicted in August 2015 on three federal counts that he conspired to commit mail fraud and paid bribes and kickbacks to former corrections chief Christopher B. Epps in exchange for contracts with companies he represented.

He will appear before Senior Judge Henry T. Wingate to change his not-guilty plea. He was due to go on trial Oct. 3.

Benjamin’s indictment accused him of paying Epps for contracts to Benjamin’s company, Mississippi Correctional Management, to provide alcohol and drug treatment services to inmates at state work centers in Alcorn and Simpson counties. The company was paid about $774,000 for the work.

He also is accused of paying Epps for help in securing contracts with Alcorn, Washington and Chickasaw counties for consulting services during construction and later operation of three regional corrections facilities.

The indictment charges Benjamin with paying Epps monthly kickbacks from consulting fees Benjamin received from Carter Gobal Facility Management after the company was hired to provide maintenance services at MDOC facilities. The value of that contract was about $4.8 million.

Epps and co-defendant Cecil McCrory, a Rankin County businessman and former legislator, pleaded guilty in early 2015 to the first indictment accusing them of being part of a bribery-kickback scheme for corrections contracts. McCrory’s attorney has since said he will ask the court to allow his client to withdraw the plea.

Benjamin faces up to 20 years in prison, $750,000 in fines and forfeiture of his proceeds he received from the illegal activity. Epps faces similarly stiff punishment.