The head of the Mississippi Department Of Corrections has abruptly resigned after being indicted on a 49-count federal corruption probe.
The U.S. Department of Justice has moved to seize former Corrections Commissioner Chris Epps’ $359,000 Flowood home, his beachfront condo in Pass Christian and two Mercedes Benz sedans after an investigation by feds revealed that Epps allegedly accepted bribes in favor of no-bid contracts with the Mississippi prison system, the U.S. Attorney’s Office stated.
The indictment alleges that Epps conspired to pass out public contracts with his department in exchange for kickbacks—”taking more than $1 million in bribes and kickbacks over the last eight years in exchange for hundreds of millions of dollars in prison contracts.
Epps resigned his $132,700-a-year prison commission position on Wednesday, with a brief letter to Gov. Phil Bryant.
His co-conspirator, Cecil McCrory also suddenly resigned his school board post on Wednesday. McCrory is listed as an owner of companies that have done business with the Mississippi Department of Corrections.
The Clarion-Ledger newspaper gives an example of how blatant the corruption had become under Epps’ leadership:
“In 2008, [co-conspirator Cecil] McCrory sold his commissary company at a big profit, and Epps approved reassignment of the no-bid contract to the new company. Shortly after, authorities say, Epps had McCrory pay off his home mortgage with three $100,000 cashier’s checks and a $50,000 check all spaced months apart.”
Epps, 53, was the longest serving corrections commissioner in the the state’s history, first appointed by then-Gov. Ronnie Musgrove in 2002. Epps also served as president of both the American Correctional Association and the Association of State Correctional Administrators.