President Donald J. Trump befriended a private prison mogul who brokered a backhanded deal to influence elections in at-least nineteen U.S. states—and using the corrupt political establishment, migrants were duped into entering the United States only to be crammed in cages owned by private prisons.
The commissioner works hand-in-glove with local political power players to award private prisons—such as Florida-based GEO Group—lucrative multi-million-dollar contracts.
From there, when legislation or an executive action impacts prison capacity at privately-owned facilities, a lawmaker advocates against the regulation—and, if unsuccessful, that’s where the judge comes in.
What’s more, elected officials at all levels intentionally lost reelection, resigned or retired after receiving job offers from private prisons through their cronies who offer lucrative and unusually hefty signing bonuses—turning against President Trump in exchange for a long-term care package.
Out of the four states, Your Content zeroed in on one specific Pennsylvania region—Delaware County—the founding county of the merciless for-profit private prison corporation GEO Group—which returned to the Philly suburb amid a massive multi-jurisdictional investigation their illegal dealings.
In a botched effort to defraud the United States government, state and federal agents zeroed in on a coup of public officials who pushed private prison contracts in exchange for lucrative lifestyles with hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks.
The joint investigation dubbed Operation Mississippi Hustle was spearheaded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and then-Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood.
Mississippi Hustle resulted in a criminal indictment on Nov. 6, 2014, charging a slew of public officials, consultants and executives for operating ‘the largest and longest-running criminal and civil conspiracies in Mississippi government history.’
Prosecutors said the scheme included bribery, kickbacks, misrepresentations, fraud, concealment, money laundering, and ‘other wrongful conduct—all with the intent to defraud and deprive’ the government out of hundreds of millions of dollars from public contracts awarded and paid for by the state.
Harrison County Supervisor William Martin committed suicide hours after being targeted in the corruption case.
Funneling money under the guise of ‘consultation fees,’ kickbacks and bribes were transferred to phony consultants who in-turn awarded or extended prison contracts to GEO and its subsidiary, Cornell Companies.
Prosecutors demonstrated from approximately 2007 through 2014—then-State Rep. Cecil McCrory, Commissioner of the Mississippi Department of Corrections Christopher B. Epps, and the GEO Group conspired to defraud the government of $256 million.
Mark Longoria—who pleaded guilty to participating in the conspiracy, admitted the trio had devised a ‘backroom’ relationship or agreement with GEO to pay State Rep. McCrory hundreds of thousands of dollars in phony ‘consulting fees.’
A portion of the kickbacks went to Epps, in exchange for awarding approximately $256,000,000 in public contracts to the private prison firm.
“Every company out there that did business with the state hired Cecil McCrory as a consultant,” Longoria testified. “I knew they had to have some type of connections to be able to get all this done.”
The ‘corruption cesspool’ was booted from the state after then-Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said the state would ‘rebid contracts with all firms mentioned in the indictment.’
On Oct. 3, 2019, four Louisiana men pleaded guilty to their involvement in the criminal plot: Michael LeBlanc Sr. of Baton Rouge, Michael LeBlanc Jr. of Prairieville, Tawasky Ventroy of Opelousas and Jacque Jones of LaPlace.
Former insurance broker Guy E. Butch Evans, 61, was also indicted for brokering a backhanded deal to receive a commission from insurance companies. Evans pleaded guilty in April 2018.
After thoughts of challenging the court system by pleading not guilty—former State Rep. Irb Benjamin decided to plead guilty and received a sentence of six years imprisonment for his role in the arrangement.
Elected officials at all levels lost reelection, resigned, or retired after receiving campaign donations from GEO Group. Several officeholders went on to assume executive roles at the private prison conglomerate. The numbers speak for themselves: 35 Republicans swept in 2020; 75 in 2018; 11 in 2017; and 33 in 2016.
It was 2016 when Your Content received a news tip about a ‘political prison plague’ that put the private prison industry on our radar.
The tipster—who lived in Texas—warned Your Content that ‘candidates in public office’ selected by the Delaware County Republican Party would soon ‘resign or be forced out,’ citing a similar political climate in Tarrant County.
“I am writing to you from Tarrant County. I know you don’t cover stories in this part of the country, but it could be something tied to your area too.” the tipster wrote in the Oct. 12, 2016 e-mail which was titled ‘Corrections Campaign Coup.’
“I’m a faithful, lifelong Republican—and the textbook definition of a small-town Texan. I learned something dear: candidates who are backed by any GEO-funded Republican chapter won’t win an election, period.”
According to the informant, the Tarrant County Republican Party dropped the bomb on all elections post-GEO Group funding.
“They are the political prison plague,” the tipster continued. “They aren’t Democrats or Republicans. Those people are their own kind who fund whichever party has the most turnout or potential in the region.
And as Shakespeare would have it: Tarrant County flipped in 2020, selecting former VP Joe Biden over President Donald Trump.
And the Texan-tipster predicted the outlandish political uproar which he previously blamed the private prison executives for, claiming the instruct party leaders to ‘throw candidates’ to the ‘wolves.’
“In counties with GEO in their backyard—candidates are thrown to the wolves by party leaders and strained to win the election without the help of our party leaders,” the 2016 e-mail continues.
“The party put up some odd candidates—many we never heard of—and pumped more money into them than any election I’ve seen in my 60 plus years.
GEO Group set up shop at Robert A. Deyton Detention Facility on Jan. 9, 2008—after receiving a lucrative award under the Bush Administration to operate the federal detention center.
Likewise in Maricopa County—GEO Group funneled cash to Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in 2014—and shortly thereafter, prison executives were awarded a contract worth over $70 million a year.
Interestingly, Your Content found several Pennsylvania lawmakers received strings of warily large donations from individuals with affiliations to GEO Group—eerily similar to the pattern of those indicted in Mississippi.
Republican State Rep. John M. Perzel—who owns a home in Boca Raton—joined GEO Group’s board while serving as House Speaker from Philadelphia.
According to a GEO Group proxy statement for the April stockholders meeting, Perzel served on four of its committees — including the audit and compensation panels. During fiscal 2008, according to the filing, he was compensated $147,953 in board fees and options. Perzel’s job in the Legislature pays him about $88,610 annually.
Previous reports implicate Sen. Toomey in a questionable ‘shell donation’ scandal involving two other lawmakers and a lobbyist.
U.S. Senator Pat Toomey received $22,392 from Stewart company employees, who lobby for the private prison. All of those contributions but one — $1,000 from an employee of Stewart & Tate — came during the 2010 cycle.
At the federal level, campaign finance data tracked by the Center for Responsive Politics show Stewart employees’ money going not just to Toomey but also to Rep. Scott Perry and former Rep. Todd Platts, both Keystone State Republicans, since 2006.
Perry and Platts received about $17,000 and about $25,000, respectively. Shortly thereafter, Platts sought a county judgeship and was sworn in on Jan. 6, 2014.
Unbeknownst to media outlets at the time, lobbyist David Stewart was employed by the GEO Group—and as the trio split the funds, GEO was awarded a contract in two of the senator’s jurisdictions.
Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP, hired to lobby for GEO, has David Stewart on its payroll. GEO paid the firm $30,000 for lobbying work.
Stewart was later charged for seeing that executives in the business were illegally reimbursed for political campaign contributions.
Platts underwent immediate scrutiny after being sworn in to serve York County as a common pleas judge.
“I have the utmost respect for Judge Platts,” David F. Brown said. “But replacing a highly experienced judge with an inexperienced judge is never a good thing.”
Mike Ruby—also a York County native—asserted Platts holds ‘no qualifications’ to assume the role. judgeship.
Pileggi—through his committee—also furnished Sen. Tom McGarrigle’s (R-Pa.) campaign with extraordinarily high contributions: $100,000 in Mar. 2014, $100,000 in May 2014, 200,000 in Sept. 2014, and $326,000 in Oct. 2014, totaling $726,000, far surpassing the amount he allocated to his own campaign by over $200,000.
McGarrigle knew Pileggi intended to ditch the senate in coming months to seek a county judgeship—similar to Platts’ move the year before—which entails a ten-year term, according to a well-placed source who worked on the campaign trail.
McGarrigle paid $74,000 in ‘consultation fees’ to Creative Consulting Concepts on Nov. 6, 2018—about two weeks after Patricia Kartha of Maryland filed to incorporate Creative Consulting Concepts Inc. with the Pennsylvania Department of State.
Impact Strategies received over $50,000 from McGarrigle in 2014 and 2018. According to state records, in total the firm raked in over $310,000 from a handful of Delaware County-based Republicans.
Another formation which deals solely with Republicans out of Delaware County received $39,176 from a fund dubbed Committee for Delaware County’s Future. Similarly, Chambers Group received in excess of $170K from their sole Republican clientele, all based in Delaware County.
Additional trusts, such as Delaware Co Rep Fin Com 7900243 moved over $1.5 million since 2017, all to Delaware County-based Republicans with ties to the private prison.
Approximately $350,000 came from Dave White alone.
In an unsettling finding during the investigation, a double dipping Delaware County lobbyist employed by GEO Group for at-least two election cycles in 2018 and 2019—while serving as a township solicitor—was a partner at the law firm that denied Right to Know Law Requests pertaining to the private prison when asked by Your Content.
John J. McNichol, 58, who goes by ‘McLobbyist,’ received a lucrative salary to lobby on behalf of GEO, despite his brother, Paul McNichol, being a township solicitor within the county which the prison operates.
When Your Content filed requests for e-mails pertaining to the situation nearly two years ago, our editors were immediately denied access by attorneys at McNichol, Byrne & Matlawski—which also features partner James J. Byrne, who happens to be related to the local jail’s warden, David Byrne.
The request was granted in part—excluding emails with the terms ‘generous’, ‘donor’, ‘election’, ‘campaign’, ‘pissed’, and ‘favor’.
“The Request does not describe the sufficient specificity the records being requested and as such the Department denies the request.” the Jun. 21, 2019 denial letter reads.
“Additionally, the Request does not enable the Department to determine whether the requested items are ‘public records’ as defined by the Right to Know Act and as such the request is denied.”
The request also sought e-mails between characters heavily involved with the private prison and their brethren.
Those requests were also rejected.
Trumped Up Hearings at the Behest of Prison Lobby
A plan was hatched to bankroll trumped up hearings at the behest of the prison lobby to bring President Trump’s executive action restricting people from select countries from entering the United States to a screeching halt.
James L. Robart was appointed to serve as a U.S. federal judge in 2004 by then-President George W. Bush. And just weeks later, Correctional Services Corporation—a GEO group subsidiary—was awarded a federal contract to construct and oversee Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wa.
When an executive action cutting the steady flow of illegal immigrants, or detainees from entering the United States was brought before Judge Robart in Feb. 2017, he deemed it a ‘harm’ to the U.S. and halted the order nationwide.
“The Executive Order adversely affects the States’ residents in areas of employment, education, business, family relations, and freedom to travel.” U.S. Judge Robart wrote in his ruling to halt President Trump’s travel restrictions in Feb. 2017.
“These harms extend to the States by virtue of their roles as parens patriae (the government) of the residents living within their borders.”
On Jan. 29, 2017, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to provide support to the travel restriction, stating the situation would ‘be decided in the courts.’
“I think it’s best not to single out judges for criticism. We all get disappointed from time to time,” McConnell said on Feb. 7, 2017.
But the hypocrite magistrate turned around and caged migrants the minute they entered the United States—even denying requests for speedier bail proceedings.
After chiding President Trump’s immigration policies in 2017—Judge Robart uninterruptedly ruled in favor of the private prison executives, caging immigrants in GEO-owned facilities and denying detainee requests for speedier bail hearings.
A memo kept by the Central Intelligence Agency reveals members of the U.S. Senate raised concern about then-Wackenhut Corporation and their ‘intimidation tactics.’
“In the first place, all have been carried out under a cloak of secrecy. That alone raises grave questions of public policy,” then-Senator Gaylord Nelson, a Democrat, testified during a Congressional proceeding on Feb. 23, 1967.
“When we view all of these developments and others like them as a developing trend or pattern in our society, I think we have reason to be gravely concerned as to whether the United States of America, perhaps unwillingly and unwittingly, is veering away from its traditional role as a free society and drifting toward a passive acceptance of the repulsive practice of a police state.”
“Mr. Wackenhut, himself, is deeply involved in politics, both national and at the State level,” the Senate report reads.
“Now this gigantic organization, with its tentacles involved in politics and other affairs over much of the globe, has gone off to work for a high public official.”
Intelligence agencies were especially worried about Wackenhut having ‘access’ to ‘official documents’ held by various government agencies.
“Presumably it will have access to all manner of official documents, police files, FBI files and other material generally available only to responsible public officials.”
Senator Nelson informed then-President Lyndon Johnson that Wackenhut’s victims were primarily American citizens who were attacked using ‘secret, police-state’ tactics.
“Mr. President, the worst thing about all of these practices is that the main victims are our own citizens and in many cases these victims are citizens completely innocent of any wrongdoing. Furthermore, these innocent American citizens in many cases will find themselves completely unable to make a satisfactory defense against these secret, police-state tactics.”
History Repeats Itself
It was Sept. 15, 1967 in downtown Miami when Upper Darby native George Wackenhut telephoned two Tampa-area sheriffs in regard to appointing a commissioner and directors for the Florida Bureau of law Enforcement, which then-Gov. Kirk left to the decision of the sly businessman.
Since its inception, GEO, its parent companies and subsidiaries have engaged in sordid Nixon-style dealings—including taking the heat for a burglary at the Davidson County Election Commission in downtown Nashville.
“On or about Dec. 24, 2007, the Office of the Davidson County Election Commission was burglarized and laptop computers containing personal information of voters were stolen,” Nashville Director of Law Sue B. Cain wrote in a letter to then-Wackenhut Corporation.
G4S—a GEO Group subsidiary—claims to be the world’s premier security company featuring a militia of ‘experienced guards’ ready and able to protect people ‘at a fraction of the cost of police.’
However, statistics indicate the company’s efforts to penetrate the U.S. market with low-cost protection have repeatedly come at the expense of its own hiring and training standards.
Moreover, the government, at times, granted the security firm authority to issue weapons to individuals, including the Pulse Nightclub shooter, after faking a psychological examination to obtain the firearm permit.
In fact, GEO Group’s domineering presence looms large over the entire political realm, and their backhanded deals have been jeopardizing the nation for years.
Photographed above is GEO Group executive Julie M. Myers, who served as Assistant Secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, nonchalantly posed for a photo with an employee she awarded ‘best costume’ to at a company Halloween party.
Homeland Security would not identify the name of the man, but noted he ‘was white’ and ‘darkened his skin’ as part of the costume.
Between 2018 and 2020, lawmakers with heavy financial interests in GEO Group simultaneously resigned or retired after party bosses instructed them to stand down—costing President Trump the presidency.
George Zoley, 66, recruited several key assets to join GEO Group since 2018—such as former California Secretary of Corrections Scott Kenan, Venezuelan banker Guido Van Hauwermeiren, and former BNP Paribas executive Duane Helkowski.
The bolstered board also includes two previous executives from BNP Paribas—the bank that funneled a massive $23 million between Hunter Biden and Ukranian associates, in addition to Kamala Harris’ right-hand-man during her tenure as California Attorney General—Scott Kernan.
Preparing for her presidency bid, Kamala Harris, in the first quarter of 2018 alone, spent more than $600,000 on web advertising and digital campaign consulting, ‘far surpassing spending in that area from other senators’ principal campaign accounts.
Scott Kernan announced his intent to retire from his position as Secretary for the California Department of Correction on Aug. 14, 2018 after being offered a position with a lucrative future by GEO Group.
The retirement was effective Aug. 31, 2018.
The Cali prison head joined the private prison’s leadership board on Sept. 14 that year. Kernan served on the 2018 editorial advisory board for Correctional News.
Also on the board was Ohio Secretary of Corrections, Gary Mohr, a Kasich appointee and private prison executive. Ironically, Mohr too resigned on Aug. 30, 2018.
Gary Johnson, head of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice from 2001 to 2004, joined GEO Group in 2007 as regional vice president for the central region that includes Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana.
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- Prison Sued for $1.7m for Hosting ‘Fantasy Inmate.’ Bizarre Version of Prison ‘Fight Club.’
- Guards at George W. Hill Correctional Facility to go on strike, leaving 1.5k inmates in limbo
And when it came to the presidency, one thing is crystal clear—Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) was handed an army of grassroots private prison devotees funneling money to him. In fact, Delaware County’s Robert Willert, joined by 100 other GEO-backed cronies, donated thousands of dollars each in hopes of ditching President Trump during the 2016 primary.
Kids for Cash Returns
Kids for Cash—widely seen as one of the worst cases of judicial malpractice in U.S. history—shook Pennsylvania’s core after judges accepted kickbacks from the builder of a private juvenile jail.
On Feb. 21, 2011, former Luzerne County Judge Mark Ciavarella was the first of four convicted for sending hundreds of children and teenagers to a private prison for minor crimes after being given the money by the prison which ran it.
Prosecutors said it involved Ciavarella and a second judge, Michael Conahan, 58, using juvenile delinquents as ‘pawns to enrich’ themselves to the tune of $2.3 million.
Ciavarella worked in Luzerne County in Pennsylvania where he was known as ‘Mr Zero Tolerance’ for his tough sentencing.
But the court was told there was another reason for his hardness – he has taken nearly $1 million from the owners and builders of a privately-run juvenile detention center.
As the firestorm settled down—Luzerne County tapped J. Allen Nesbitt, VP of Correctional Services for Delaware County-based MinSec Companies, to oversee county corrections.
Nesbitt resigned from Luzerne County just three years into the job on Feb. 10, 2016 to take ‘a position with a nonprofit drug, alcohol and criminal justice organization elsewhere in the state.’
DELCORA, Aqua & Private Prisons
At first sight there simply is no connection between the three—but in reality, its nothing more than a conflict-of-interest conveyor belt carrying hundreds of millions of dollars in funds between power players and Wackenhut-turned-GEO pioneers—who recruited Aqua’s top dog in the 90’s to broker the deal between the water conglomerate and county-created water authority.
From 1996 to early 2019—GEO Group executive Richard H. Glanton served as a director for Aqua America, Inc., the second-largest publicly traded water utility based in the U.S.
Delaware County-native Robert Willert served as a director for the Delaware County Regional Water Quality Control Authority (“DELCORA”) since Jan. 2002. Willert also served as Concord Township Manager from 2003 to 2014.
But on Oct. 5, 2014, Willert assumed the role of Chairperson for Delaware County Council candidate Dave White’s campaign committee, Friends of Dave White.
Friends of Dave White gave gracious donations to several firms and candidates—for example, dropping $44,000 to Delaware Co Rep Fin Com 7900243, $32K to Ridley Twp. Republican Finance Committee, and $16,355.10 to Pete Gaglio.
After White ran a successful bid for county council, Willert was appointed to serve as Executive Director for DELCORA.
“In 2018 DELCORA began to explore alternative solutions to address the infrastructure challenges and likely rate impacts,” Willert testified before the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission on Mar. 3, 2020.
To add to the conflicted mix—DELCORA is audited by Cynthia Felzer Leitzell—former Chairperson of the Chester Water Authority Board of Directors—and to make matters worse, her accounting firm shares an office space with the Delaware County Republican Party.
Cruel Crimes to Cheat Justice
Documents obtained by USA Today revealed the company’s American subsidiaries have hired at-least 300 employees with criminal convictions, allegations of violence and prior law enforcement careers that ended in disgrace.
Some went on to rape, assault, or shoot people – including while on duty.
George W. Hill Correctional Facility
On May. 3, 2018, the Delaware County Board of Prison Inspectors tapped Phoenix Management Services to conduct an evaluation of the current ‘public-partnership’ at George W. Hill Correctional Facility in suburban Philadelphia and determine if ‘it made economical sense’ for the county to ‘reassume full operational control.’
“The public/private partnership created between the Superintendent’s Office and GEO avoids many pitfalls often associated with privately run prisons,” the Phoenix report reads, echoing what GEO CEO Zoley said in 2007.
“We have developed a close and proven partnership with Delaware County over the past decade and look forward to many more years of service,” Zoley previously said.
“This contract is an important example of the vital role public-private partnerships can have at the local government level.”
In 1998 Wackenhut constructed scandal-scarred George W. Hill Correctional Facility and assumed operations to early 2019.
But Phoenix Management Services hit a brick wall during the analysis—when auditors requested information from the county jail, prison executives ‘refused to provide the requested information under any circumstance.’
“Despite numerous requests, discussions, and meetings, GEO ultimately decided that it would not comply with Phoenix’s requests for information,” the report reads.
“Notwithstanding our willingness to execute a nondisclosure agreement, and our intent to protect the confidential nature of the information, GEO expressed concerns about information that it regarded as privileged or confidential and therefore did not comply with our data requests.
“However, GEO ultimately refused to provide the requested information under any circumstance.”
According to the prison audit, GEO ‘is solely responsible for healthcare costs for both inmates and employees.’
Your Content obtained a second contract between the federal government and the prison penned on Nov. 16, 2010, sticking medical bill on the county for federal ‘detainees’ rather than the for-profit prison—taxpayers double in medical bills.
GEO Group acquired a medical firm in Delaware County shortly after cozying up with local politicians—who allowed the service provider to oversee medical conditions in their own prison under the guise of GEO Group subsidiary—MinSEC.
To make matters worse, local courts release violent sex offenders who change their home address to a GEO-owned residence in Chester.
From there many of the offenders—including violent rapists, kidnappers, pedophiles and child pornographers—simply walk out and fail to update Pennsylvania State Police of their whereabouts, leaving civilians vulnerable to a vicious attack.
Craig Lambert, 51, listing an address in the city of Chester, was released from George W. Hill Correctional Facility Dec. 19, 2019.
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Lambert was arrested and subsequently convicted on Mar. 31, 2009 of attempted involuntary deviate sexual intercourse on a minor.
For Lambert to be released from prison, he had to provide authorities an address for Pennsylvania State Police to update the sex offender’s status on Megan’s Law.
Luckily for the felon, GEO Group allowed him to use 201 E 12th St. in the city of Chester, Pennsylvania, which serves as a sex offender halfway house for the conglomerate’s subsidiary MinSEC—boasting 53 facilities around the state as of 2013.
Lambert never reported back to the halfway house and police have issued a warrant for his arrest.
In fact, several violent sex offenders housed at the shady Chester facility also absconded immediately after their arrival, including: lifetime offender Jessie King Sr., Pedro Blasini, James Israel, Karriem Khalid Colbert, and Akbar Ali Rivera.
To make matters worse—nearly 200 sex offenders nonchalantly waltzed out of a Texas halfway house owned by GEO Group in a single month over the summer.
The offenders living at the facility do not wear uniforms, but some wear ankle monitors.
The ex-prisoners can enroll in “evidence-based rehabilitation programs,” according to the website of the GEO Group, which operates the facility.
GEO prisons in America have been hit with numerous incidents of sexual abuse, riots and escapees.
The report quotes ‘scathing assessments’ of the company’s safety record, according to the ABC.
It also described allegations of sexual abuse by the company’s guards.
The report mentioned riots that had happened at MTC-ran facilities in Arizona, Texas and Mississippi.
In one stark case, an inmate escaped and committed two murders.
The notorious Parklea prison has been plagued by crime, mismanagement and violence for years.
Representatives for former Senator Tom McGarrigle declined to provide Your Content with a copy of a missing campaign finance report dated 12/4/2014.
All parties named declined to comment when approached by Your Content prior to the date of publication.