Four Louisiana businessmen pled guilty Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate to conspiring to pay bribes to former Mississippi Department of Corrections Commissioner Christopher B. Epps and Kemper County Sheriff James Moore.
The pleas were announced Thursday by U.S. Attorney Mike Hurst and Special Agent in Charge Michelle Sutphin with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Mississippi.
In exchange for bribes, the men hoped to receive contracts for commissary and inmate calling services involving MDOC and a regional detention facility located in Kemper County.
Michael LeBlanc, Sr., 71, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Tawasky Ventroy, 60, of Opelousas, Louisiana, Michael LeBlanc, Jr., 42, of Prairieville, Louisiana, and Jacque Jackson, 51, of LaPlace, Louisiana, attempted to bribe Epps and Moore, who were both assisting the FBI at the time of the investigation, accordiing to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The men were associated with Brothers Commissary Services and American Phone Systems, both located in Louisiana but operating in Mississippi, according to the news release.
On Oct. 16, 2014, LeBlanc, Sr. spoke with a confidential informant about his intent to put something in the hands of former Commissioner Epps that would help LeBlanc Sr. obtain MDOC and County contracts. During the conversation, he stated that he would let his business partner in American Phone Systems, Tawasky Ventroy, meet with Epps because they were both African Americans. On Oct. 21, 2014, Tawaksy Ventroy traveled to Jackson and met Epps in his office. Ventroy provided Epps with a $2,000 cash bribe, according to the news release.
Additionally, LeBlanc, Jr. and his business partner, Jackson, were trying to secure contracts for Brother’s Commissary and American Phone Systems in Kemper County. While attending the Mississippi Sheriff’s Conference, LeBlanc Jr. retrieved $2,000 worth of casino chips from a table game and provided the chips to Jackson. At Jackson’s request, Sheriff Moore met Jackson in the men’s restroom of the casino in Biloxi and gave Moore the casino chips to influence him into helping Jackson and LeBlanc Jr. secure the contracts for commissary and inmate calling services in Kemper County. Jackson told Moore that he would provide another $1,000 once the contract was awarded. On Jan. 16, 2015, when confronted by the FBI, Jackson admitted to passing the $2,000 in casino chips to Moore in exchange for his assistance with securing the lucrative contracts, according to the news release.
Hurst praised Moore for his undercover work.
The men are scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Wingate at 10 a.m. Feb. 10. They each face a maximum penalty of five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.
The case was investigated by the FBI and prosecuted by First Assistant United States Attorney Darren LaMarca and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathlyn R. Van Buskirk.