The State of Mississippi has filed a number of civil racketeering lawsuits in state court as officials try to claw back money spent on prison contracts that the state claims were obtained through a bribery scheme that has resulted in several federal convictions. Attorney General Jim Hood filed 11 lawsuits under the state’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act against several major prison services companies as well as several individuals involved in the kickback scheme.
The plot hinged on more than $1 million in bribes directed toward then-Department of Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps, in exchange for government contracts – generally through a “so-called consultant,” as the complaint terms the go-betweens. Epps pled guilty in February 2015 in federal court. Attorney General Hood said in a statement:
The state of Mississippi has been defrauded through a pattern of bribery, kickbacks, misrepresentations, fraud, concealment, money laundering and other wrongful conduct. These individuals and corporations that benefited by stealing from taxpayers must not only pay the state’s losses, but state law requires that they must also forfeit and return the entire amount of the contracts paid by the state.
The complaints allocate the biggest share of the damages claimed by the state to Pittsburgh-based prison health care provider Wexford Health Solutions, with $294 million in contracts allegedly procured through bribery; Florida-based prison operator GEO Group, with $256 million in allegedly tainted contracts; Utah-based inmate education and training provider Management & Training Corp., with $114 million worth; and Mississippi-based prison construction outfit AJA Management & Technical Services Inc., with $80 million worth.
The state’s complaints say that by law the state is entitled to the full value of the illegally procured contracts. Other companies named in the suit include Health Assurance LLC; Keefe Commissary Network; CGL Facility Management LLC, with $10.8 million worth; Global Tel-Link Corp.; Branan Medical Corporation/Drug Testing Corp.; AdminPros,; and Sentinel Offender Services.