State recoups $26.6 million from Epps bribery scandal

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Eric J. Shelton, Mississippi Today/Report For America

Attorney General Jim Hood announces his office’s success in settling 11 civil lawsuits in the Chris Epps prison bribery scheme at Walter Sillers Building Thursday, January 24.

Attorney General Jim Hood has settled all eleven lawsuits filed against government contractors involved in the Chris Epps bribery case for a total of $26.6 million.

The contractors involved used consultants as a means to secure contracts with former Department of Corrections commissioner Chris Epps, Hood said. The settlements should deter companies interested in doing business in the state from engaging in such behavior, Hood told reporters Thursday.

“These companies, they had to pay and pay dearly,” Hood said.

Major corrections contractors, including Management and Training Corp., GEO Group and Global Tel Link, were part of the settlements. One firm, correctional health care provider Health Assurance, LLC went bankrupt over the course of proceedings.

The civil suits, filed in February 2017, followed Epps’ resignation. Epps is now serving nearly 20 years in federal prison after pleading guilty to bribery charges. Federal authorities said Epps had received at least $1.4 million in kickbacks and bribes to secure over $800 million worth of contracts for the state’s prison system.

Of the $26.6 million, $10.6 million will go toward the state’s general fund, with about $9 million being returned to the Department of Corrections. Attorneys’ fees on the cases total $6.7 million.

Several of the contractors sued by the attorney general’s office hold contracts with the Department of Corrections to this day, including Global Tel*Link Corp., a phone service for prisoners; Management and Training Corp., which operates East Mississippi Correctional Facility near Meridian; and Sentinel Offender Services, which provides electronic monitoring services for offenders.

Hood encouraged private businesses to report illegal behavior noticed while securing government contracts to his office.