FAYETTEVILLE – Former State Senator Jon Woods had $ 87,250 in loans from Arvest Bank between 2012 and 2014, all guaranteed by someone else, according to financial records presented by the government on Thursday during his trial .
Prosecutors today continued to detail Woods’ financial dealings while he was accused of participating in a bribe program involving state subsidies.
Christy Cops, fraud research specialist for Arvest Bank, testified this morning that the bank loaned Woods $ 30,000 in 2012 guaranteed by Richard Roblee and two loans of $ 25,000 each in 2014 guaranteed by James Phillips. Former state representative Jonathan Barnett of Siloam Springs co-signed a $ 7,250 car loan for Woods in 2012, Cops said.
Springdale Wood; Oren Paris III, former president of Ecclesia College in Springdale; and Randell Shelton, formerly Alma, were indicted in March 2017. Paris pleaded guilty on April 4 to one count of conspiracy and will testify for the government. Paris allegedly disguised the bribes as consulting fees paid to Shelton’s firm, Paradigm Strategic Consulting. Shelton then passed the money on, the government claims.
Defense attorneys said the money transfers to and from Woods were loans and money to repay loans.
Shelly Koehler of Fayetteville, one of Shelton’s attorneys, said on Tuesday that Shelton had a long history of successful businesses, including fundraising, and that the money paid to him by Paris was for the fees of consultation.
Former State Representative Micah Neal of Springdale pleaded guilty on January 4, 2017 to one count of conspiracy. He admitted to receiving two bribes, one in 2013 and one in 2014, totaling $ 38,000 in exchange for state grants to two nonprofit groups. His sentence is pending.
Woods is accused of receiving bribes from Paris in exchange for paying $ 550,000 in General Improvement Fund grants to Ecclesia, all in 2013 or 2014.
The fund consists of unallocated state tax money at the end of each fiscal year and interest earned on state deposits. Each legislator received a share of the fund to be allocated to a non-profit group or government entity. The state Supreme Court declared this method of distribution unconstitutional in an October 5 ruling.
Neal testified on Wednesday that he got involved in the bribes because he was having financial problems and asked Woods how he made money. Woods said he made a deal and came back to him days later with the bribe scheme in which the two would receive 20% of any grant made to Ecclesia and another nonprofit. , AmeriWorks, said Neal.
Neal’s guilty plea included his bribery with Woods for $ 400,000 in state grants to AmeriWorks. Neal said he received $ 20,000 delivered by Woods for directing $ 125,000 to AmeriWorks. Grant records show that Woods paid the company $ 275,000.
AmeriWorks was incorporated by lobbyist Russell “Rusty” Cranford a day before receiving the grants. The $ 400,000 of the 2013 grant was returned on August 14, 2014, after federal investigators questioned the company founder about the grants, according to Woods’ indictment.
Woods and Neal, both Republicans, then cooperated to use part of the $ 400,000 repaid to pay Ecclesia an additional $ 200,000 in exchange for another bribe, the indictment says.
Cranford, 56, is due June 11 in federal court in Springfield, Missouri on one count of conspiracy and eight counts of accepting bribes in an unrelated indictment.
Woods faces 15 counts of fraud, all related to wire or courier money transfers. Paris and Shelton have been named in 14 of the fraud charges. All three have been charged with conspiracy to commit fraud. Woods is also charged with one count of money laundering in connection with the purchase of a cashier’s check.