Irb Benjamin pleads guilty in Epps prison 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 Benjaminwalks to the federal courthouse in Jackson June 9, 2016.

Former state Sen. Irb Benjamin pleaded guilty for his part in the Mississippi Department of Corrections bribery scandal as expected Tuesday in Jackson.

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.

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 was 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.

Brandon businessman Cecil McCrory and Epps pleaded guilty to charges connected to the bribery scheme in February 2015, but they have not been sentenced. Three others have also pleaded guilty on related charges.

U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate will sentence Benjamin in early 2017. Benjamin faces up to 10 years in prison and up to $250,000 in fines. Prosecutors also want him to forfeit money he gained.