Guilty plea set for last defendant in prison bribery scheme
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The final person facing charges in an alleged kickback scheme involving Mississippi’s former corrections commissioner plans to plead guilty.
Federal court records show insurance agent Guy “Butch” Evans will plead guilty April 24. He could be the last person convicted in one of the largest bribery schemes uncovered in recent Mississippi history. Former Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps acknowledged accepting more than $1.4 million in bribes from private contractors and is serving a nearly 20-year prison sentence.
Defense lawyers for Evans did not respond Friday to phone calls and emails seeking comment.
Evans was indicted in 2016 for making cash payments of $1,400 to $1,700 a month from January 2013 to May 2014 to Epps in exchange for the prison system’s insurance business. That’s at least $23,800 Evans is accused of passing to Epps in meetings in the parking lot of Corrections Department headquarters or in restaurants. The indictment says Evans was kicking back part of his commission from insurance sales, and also cites wire transfers that Evans made.
Court papers suggest that Evans confessed wrongdoing to FBI agents.
A grand jury indicted Evans on charges of conspiracy and bribery, which carried a possible prison sentence of up to 30 years, plus fines of up to $500,000. Evans pleaded not guilty and his trial had been repeatedly delayed, but was proceeding toward starting on April 9.
Court papers say Evans will waive indictment and plead guilty to a separate charge that prosecutors have not yet filed, instead of pleading guilty to one or more of the counts in the indictment. That arrangement that is sometimes used in plea bargains to allow a defendant to admit to a less serious crime.
The government had also demanded that Evans forfeit the more than $44,000 he gained from the scheme.
Eight other people have been convicted so far. A ninth person, former Harrison County Supervisor William Martin, killed himself in 2015, hours before he was due in federal court on bribery charges.
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