Federal Judge Timothy Brooks has set sentencing on four days in September for the four men convicted in the scheme to pay kickbacks out of state General Improvement Fund money guided to, particularly, Ecclesia College in Springdale.
Former Republican Sen. Jon Woods will be sentenced at 9 a.m. Sept. 5 in Fayetteville. He was convicted of 15 counts of scheming to send money to Ecclesia and Preferred Family Healthcare, a mental healthcare provider.
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Woods’ friend Randell Shelton, who was convicted of 12 counts, will be sentenced at 9 a.m. Sept. 6 in Fayetteville. He was nominally a fund-raising consultant for the college.
Oren Paris III, president of Ecclesia, who pleaded guilty to cooperating in the scheme, will be sentenced at 9 a.m. Sept. 12 in Fayetteville.
Finally, at 9 a.m. Sept. 13 in Fayetteville, former Republican Rep. Micah Neal will be sentenced. He won the race to the courthouse, becoming the first announced cooperating witness in a wide-ranging public corruption probe that has now snared five former legislators (Woods, Neal, Henry Wilkins, Jake Files and Eddied Cooper) and implicated at least one other, Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson. A number of officials of Preferred Family Health also have pleaded guilty to various crimes in use of the agency’s millions in Medicaid money.
Some appeals are pending. But typically, people convicted in such cases need a likely point of reversal to avoid incarceration while an appeal pends.
The federal probation office has filed pre-sentencing reports in the case but they are under seal.
Many other legislators participated in funneling hundreds of thousands to Ecclesia, a tiny school incorporated as a church, and Preferred Family Health. As yet, no public official has made an effort to recover the Ecclesia money, which went in part to buy land for the college. Preferred Family Healthcare