A former Preferred Family Healthcare clinic in Morrilton in 2018

After years of delay, a federal court has finally set a sentencing date for former state Rep. Eddie Wayne Cooper, one of the many Arkansas politicians, lobbyists and others taken down in a bribery scandal that spanned Arkansas and Missouri.

U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes of Kansas City last week set Cooper’s sentencing for Aug. 26 at 1:45 p.m. in Springfield, Missouri.

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Eddie Cooper

Cooper, a Democrat from Melbourne, pleaded guilty in February 2018 to participating in a conspiracy to embezzle more than $4 million from a nonprofit behavioral health  agency, Preferred Family Healthcare. In his plea deal, Cooper admitted that he conspired with executives of the Springfield-based nonprofit to use its money for unlawful political contributions and lobbying, as well as to benefit themselves.

The Arkansas Times reported in 2018 that Cooper received at least $387,501 from a lobbying firm and $63,000 in kickbacks and noted he would have to forfeit that money.

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Cooper became a registered lobbyist after leaving the Legislature in 2011. Preferred Family Healthcare hired him as a regional director in 2009, and he worked there until April 26, 2017.

Cooper’s sentencing date comes shortly after two former Preferred Family Healthcare executives — Bontiea Bernedette Goss, 65, and her husband, Tommy Ray Goss, 68 — were sentenced to three and six years in prison, respectively. The case also implicated multiple legislators of both parties, including former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, a nephew of former Gov. Asa Hutchinson, and former state Sen. Henry “Hank” Wilkins IV of Pine Bluff.

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