Insurance broker: Prisons chief demanded ‘take care of me’
JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Months after an insurance broker won a contract for a company to sell policies to Mississippi prison system employees, he was called to see Christopher Epps, who was the state corrections commissioner at the time.
The broker, Guy “Butch” Evans, said under oath Tuesday in federal court that Epps told him in that January 2013 meeting: ”‘My friends are taking care of me. I want you to know that. And I expect you to take care of me.’”
Evans, 63, of Jackson, pleaded guilty Tuesday to aiding and abetting tax evasion for paying $19,200 to Epps, knowing that Epps would not pay taxes on it.
Evans was the latest person — and could be the last — to plead guilty to what prosecutors say was 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, just before federal authorities announced his indictment.
Epps acknowledged accepting more than $1.4 million in bribes from private contractors and pleaded guilty in 2015. He is serving a nearly 20-year sentence at a federal prison in Florida.
In addition to Evans, eight other people have been convicted.
Answering questions Tuesday from U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate, Evans said he knew Epps before he teamed up with a company and submitted a proposal to sell supplemental insurance policies to Mississippi Department of Corrections employees. Evans said a committee of about 20 department employees awarded the contract in 2012 so the company could sell life insurance or policies for things like long-term care or cancer treatment. Although Epps was not involved in awarding the contract, Evans said he made payments to Epps because he believed the commissioner could take the contract away.
Evans said he gave Epps cash payments from January 2013 to May 2014. There was no formal agreement between them about the amount of the payments or how often they would be made, Evans said. He said he decided on his own that he would give Epps roughly 10 to 15 percent of what he was making, and that the payments were made about every month, sometimes in Epps’ state office and sometimes at lunch.
Evans remains free on bail, with sentencing set for July 10. He faces a maximum five years in prison and $100,000 fine. Prosecutors said the government also will seek a still-unspecified amount of money in restitution.
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