Former Florida Prisons Chief to Plead Guilty to Taking Kickbacks Amid Wider Probe

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The former head of Florida's prisons, ousted amid a broad investigation of alleged criminal activity within the system, will plead guilty to a federal charge of accepting kickbacks, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

Former Florida Corrections Secretary James Crosby and former corrections department regional director Allen Clark are accused of accepting $130,000 from a subcontractor over 2 1/2 years ending in February, according to the documents filed in U.S. District Court.

As part of a plea agreement, Crosby will not face any other federal charges in return for his cooperation in the continuing investigation. Clark also accepted a plea agreement.

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U.S. Attorney Paul Perez said both Crosby and Clark can expect up to eight years in prison.

Law enforcement officials said seven other current and former prison employees are facing state charges of grand theft and one other person a charge of accepting unauthorized compensation.

Gov. Jeb Bush forced Crosby to resign in February.

"I am disappointed by this violation of the public's trust and by the abuses committed by those in leadership positions," Bush said in a statement Wednesday. "Our work requires the highest level of integrity. Anything less is unacceptable and undermines the good work done by many capable and committed state employees."

Crosby will be arraigned Tuesday in Jacksonville, said his attorney, Steven R. Andrews of Tallahassee. Clark's arraignment is scheduled for Thursday.

Crosby had no immediate comment, his lawyer said. "He hopes to get on with his life," Andrews said.

Crosby had faced a maximum of 10 years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine, or both on the kickback charge.

He started in the prison system in 1975 and was a warden at Florida State Prison before heading the nation's third largest corrections system.

Over the final months of his tenure as corrections secretary, the department faced intense scrutiny over arrests related to alleged steroid abuse by guards, accusations of sexual assault and the arrest of a former minor league baseball player who was allegedly hired only to help a prison employee softball team.

In March, new Corrections Department chief James McDonough fired nine prison officials after a report by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement concluded that Crosby tried to shut down an investigation into possible criminal activity among employees in the prison system. It said Crosby had threatened to review the conduct of one of his employees — whose father was then head of FDLE — if the investigation continued.

State officials in May announced that the Department of Corrections would begin random testing of employees for illegal drugs, following a series of allegations of misconduct by high-ranking agency employees and guards, including a prison-based steroid peddling ring.