FBI Discovers Use of Mississippi Casino to Bribe State Officials

  • Four Louisiana men pleaded guilty to bribing and bribery attempts with casino chips
  • They were trying to secure lucrative contracts for their businesses in the county
  • The bribes took place inside the restroom of the Golden Nugget Biloxi Casino
  • Arrests were made after an undercover sting operation involving the FBI
Four men pleaded guilty to using casino premises to attempt to bribe state officials in Mississippi. [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Casino chips bribe

Four men in Mississippi have pleaded guilty to using casinos in the state to bribe officials and get their hands on lucrative county contracts. The accused, all residents of Louisiana, submitted guilty pleas which were accepted by Judge Henry Wingate last week.

According to the prosecutors, Michael LeBlanc Sr., Michael LeBlanc Jr., Tawasky Ventroy, and Jacque Jackson were able to bribe the former commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC), Christopher Epps, using casino chips.

the casino chips bribe was in the region of thousands of dollars

The bribe was made in exchange for securing contracts for commissary and inmate telephone services for their companies, American Phone Systems and Brothers Commissary Service. 

According to the prosecution, the deals were agreed in the restroom of the Golden Nugget Biloxi Casino. The casino chips bribe was in the region of thousands of dollars. 

Undercover FBI operation

In 2015, Commissioner Epps entered a guilty plea for accepting bribes of more than $1.4m, which led to a prison sentence of almost 20 years. The four men behind the bribe were free to continue operating their casino scheme, this time with Kemp County Sheriff James Moore. 

According to the prosecution, Moore met one of the men in the same casino restroom they had met Epps in. Moore received $1,000 in casino chips and was told he would get a further $1,000 in chips once a calling services contract in the county had been awarded. 

up to five years’ imprisonment, another three years of supervision upon release, and a fine of $250,000

At the time, Moore was working undercover with the FBI to try and catch the schemers. When confronted, the four admitted their crimes.

They are now looking at up to five years’ imprisonment, another three years of supervision upon release, and a fine of $250,000. The sentencing will take place on February 10, 2020. 

Persistent attempts of bribery

Sheriff Moore detailed how he was propositioned for a bribe. He spoke about how the men were trying to do all they could to try and win the lucrative business contracts. 

According to Moore, “The phone calls never stopped. The visits never stopped. There would be money. There would be trips, ballgames and all-expense-paid stuff. Whatever it took to get that contract, they were prepared to make that happen.”

Fiscal threats

Epps was in contact with Moore, encouraging him to work with the four men. If Moore didn’t, Epps said it could affect Moore’s numbers.

While no physical threats were ever made, there were fiscal threats regarding the Kemper County jail that was under Moore’s jurisdiction. As Moore explained, this would have meant seeing the number of prison inmates go down, and the state giving the facility less money to be able to house them.

According to Moore, the Kemper County jail inmate numbers at one stage fell from an almost maximum capacity of 400 down to 280.

The final straw

Mike Hurst, the US attorney working on the case, said Mississippi residents are fed up with corruption.

He added: “This office has made fighting public corruption a priority, and we will continue working with all of our partners to end corruption throughout our state.”