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Lawmaker’s widow sentenced for kickbacks to prison chief

May 25, 2019
File - In this Aug. 3, 2016 file photograph, Teresa Malone, leaves the federal courthouse in Jackson, Miss. Malone, the widow of a former Mississippi lawmaker, was sentenced Friday, May 24, 2019, by U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate, to 41 months in prison for one count of bribery, and ordered to pay $225,000 in restitution. The charges and sentencing stem from paying kickbacks to Mississippi's former corrections commissioner. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)
File - In this Aug. 3, 2016 file photograph, Teresa Malone, leaves the federal courthouse in Jackson, Miss. Malone, the widow of a former Mississippi lawmaker, was sentenced Friday, May 24, 2019, by U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate, to 41 months in prison for one count of bribery, and ordered to pay $225,000 in restitution. The charges and sentencing stem from paying kickbacks to Mississippi's former corrections commissioner. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — The widow of a former state House member was sentenced Friday to more than three years in prison for paying kickbacks to Mississippi’s former corrections commissioner.

U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate ordered Teresa Malone to spend 41 months in prison after her 2017 guilty plea to one count of bribery. Wingate also ordered Malone to pay $225,000 in restitution.

“This whole matter has rocked the state and the persons in charge of rehabilitating others have become villains of the same system,” Wingate said in court Friday, according to a news release from prosecutors.

Malone is the widow of the late state Rep. Bennett Malone, a Democrat who was the onetime chairman of the House Corrections Committee. He was not charged before he died in 2017. Teresa Malone had her sentencing repeatedly delayed because of lung transplant complications.

Malone admitted she paid kickbacks to then-Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps after Epps steered a $5,000-a-month consulting contract to her. Malone was paid $225,000 from October 2010 through July 2014, netting more than $170,000 after kickbacks to Epps.

Malone was the latest person to be sentenced in a wide-ranging scheme of bribery and corruption under Epps, who led the Mississippi prison system for a dozen years under three governors. Epps resigned in November 2014, hours before federal authorities announced his indictment.

Epps acknowledged accepting more than $1.4 million in bribes from private contractors and is currently in a federal prison outside Dallas, scheduled for release in November 2033. In addition to Malone, eight other people have been convicted. A ninth person, former Harrison County Supervisor William Martin, killed himself in 2015, hours before he was due in federal court on bribery charges.

Four Louisiana men still face charges that they paid Epps $2,000 and promised him more in the future to secure his help in influencing sheriffs and in securing contracts selling goods to inmates in state-supervised regional jails. Michael LeBlanc Sr. of Baton Rouge, Michael LeBlanc Jr. of Prairieville, Tawasky Ventroy of Opelousas and Jacque Jones of LaPlace are also accused of trying to bribe a Mississippi sheriff with $2,000 in casino chips to give them contracts.

They are set for trial Sept. 30 in Jackson.

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