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Texan gets 5 years for bribing Mississippi official

 

Jeff Amy/The Associated Press

 

 

JACKSON -- A federal judge on Tuesday sentenced a Texas man to the maximum term of five years in prison for his role in bribing Mississippi's former corrections commissioner. 

 

U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate ordered Mark Longoria of Houston to forfeit $131,000 in profit he derived from the bribe, pay back $368,000 in restitution to the Mississippi Department of Corrections and serve three years of probation after his release. 

 

Longoria, the CEO of Drug Testing Corp., pleaded guilty to a felony charge of conspiracy to commit bribery in August. He admits paying nearly $230,000 to Mississippi businessman Cecil McCrory for his work helping to secure sales of drug testing cups in 2013 and 2014. Longoria has said he found out during the contract that McCrory was kicking back $60,000 to then-Corrections Commissioner Christopher Epps but didn't stop it. Prosecutors say he may have known from the beginning. 

 

Wingate earlier this month sentenced McCrory to 8½ years in federal prison for one count of money laundering conspiracy. McCrory must also pay a $150,000 fine, forfeit $1.7 million in assets and serve two years of probation. 

 

Epps pleaded guilty to money laundering and filing false tax returns in February 2015 and is set to be sentenced May 24. He could get up to 23 years in prison. 

 

Longoria told the judge that he sought the Mississippi contract and ultimately agreed to bribe Epps because he was on the verge of losing his sales job with the manufacturer of the cups after a merger, meaning his only income would be from Drug Testing Corp., previously a sideline business. 

 

"I know that I'm the sole provider for my wife and daughters," Longoria said. 

 

Six character witnesses testified for Longoria on Monday. 

 

"I have never seen him more ashamed or embarrassed than I have now and that just kills me," said daughter Savanna Craig. 

 

Defense lawyer Tom Fortner argued no restitution was due because the Corrections Department paid Longoria less per cup than a previous vendor. But Wingate sided with Assistant U.S. Attorney Darren LaMarca, who said Longoria, through McCrory and Epps, improperly influenced the bid specifications, contributing to the disqualification of a lower bidder. Longoria testified the lower bidder should have been disqualified because its cups didn't meet federal requirements. 

 

Prosecutors also played a tape that seemed to indicate that Longoria induced a third competitor to bid above him, although the competitor and the manufacturer of Longoria's cups had merged. 

 

Fortner tried unsuccessfully to lower the sentence by arguing that money that Longoria paid to McCrory, beyond the $60,000 in bribes passed to Epps, shouldn't counted in calculating Longoria's sentence. Wingate again agreed with LaMarca, who argued the entire amount paid to McCrory was tainted. 

 

"Mr. Epps and Mr. McCrory were in it together to get money," LaMarca said. 

 

 

 

 

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