Prosecutors say Mississippi’s longtime prisons chief, Christopher Epps, was living high, buying beachfront condos and fancy cars, raking in so much in bribes he had to launder the money, reports the Jackson Clarion-Ledger. Epps, usually gregarious, was uncharacteristically quiet as he entered and left federal court in Jackson yesterday. He and his alleged co-conspirator, Rankin County school board president and former judge and legislator Cecil McCrory, each pleaded not guilty to a string of charges from a 49-count indictment. They were each released on $25,000 bond.
Trial is set for Jan. 5 before U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate. Sources said the indictment is likely a first step in a case that could grow much wider. “I’m shocked by this,” said Epps. Acting U.S. Attorney Harold Brittain called it “systemic and pervasive corruption in our state government.” Epps, who resigned on Wednesday, is accused of 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. McCrory, who owned companies doing business with the state, is accused of bribing Epps and raking in cash from sweetheart contracts and consulting fees. Authorities say Epps and McCrory hatched their conspiracy in 2007. Epps signed a no-bid contract for McCrory’s company, G.T. Enterprises, to provide commissary services at state and private prisons.