July 5, 2006

Ex-Florida prisons chief charged with kickbacks

TALLAHASSEE, Florida (Reuters) - The former head of
Florida's troubled prison system and a regional director were
charged on Wednesday with receiving $130,000 in kickbacks from
a prison canteen operator. Eight others were also charged.

James Crosby, former secretary of the Florida Department of
Corrections, had agreed to plead guilty to the charges, which
followed a three-year state and federal probe, the U.S.
Attorney for the Middle District of Florida said.

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush fired Crosby in February for
undisclosed reasons.

According to federal prosecutors, Crosby and the regional
corrections director could face up to 10 years in prison for
accepting cash in exchange for a lucrative catering contract
for prison visitors.

The contract was landed by a company with ties to both
officials. The kickbacks increased quickly from $1,000 to
$12,000 a month, the indictment said.

The eight other prison officials were charged with grand
theft and accepting bribes.

The arrests followed a series of prison scandals in
Florida, ranging from allegations of steroid use, fictional
employees, embezzlement and sex and drug-trafficking.

Last month a federal investigator was killed during the
arrest of a group of prison guards charged with exchanging
contraband and money for sex at the Florida Correctional
Institution, a federal complex that houses women. A suspect who
shot the federal official was also killed.

Officials are also investigating the death in January of a
14-year-old boy in a boot camp.