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Gainesville businessman admits paying kickbacks to former Florida corrections officials

TALLAHASSEE — Gainesville businessman Edward Lee Dugger has admitted paying kickbacks to former Florida corrections officials to gain access to a prison canteen business that provides snacks and other items to inmates and visiting family members.

Dugger, 64, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in U.S. District Court in Jacksonville on Wednesday. He faces up to 39 months in federal prison at a July 27 sentencing.

The plea, part of an agreement with prosecutors, came almost four years after Corrections Secretary James V. Crosby Jr. and Allen Clark, another Corrections Department official, were sentenced to federal prison. The two admitted accepting more than $130,000 in kickbacks from Dugger and business associate Joseph Arthur Deese, who faces trial next month.

Crosby is serving an eight-year sentence. Allen has been released.

Dugger's plea came just two weeks after federal prosecutors notified him of plans to use tape-recorded evidence from two undercover meetings in 2009. During those meetings, Dugger discussed a business deal to pay kickbacks to Keefe Commissary Network executive Jack Donnelly if he would allow one of Dugger's business associates to sell tobacco products to inmates.

The canteen contract provides the state with more than $20 million a year and gives Keefe Commissary the right to run canteens in all Florida prison facilities. In 2004, Crosby and Clark introduced Dugger and Deese to officials from Keefe Commissary. Dugger and Deese were charged with making payments to Crosby and Clark in return for the business contract.

Crosby started work as a guard in the prison system in 1975. He was appointed to his latest post by Gov. Jeb Bush and forced to resign after federal investigators started looking at the commissary contract.

Gainesville businessman admits paying kickbacks to former Florida corrections officials 03/03/11 [Last modified: Thursday, March 3, 2011 9:21pm]

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