New charge added to ex-Arkansas law­maker bribery case

El Dorado News-Times - - Opinion -

FAYET­TEVILLE (AP) — Fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors have added a con­spir­acy charge in a re­vised in­dict­ment filed against a for­mer state se­na­tor and two others ac­cused in a bribery scheme.

For­mer Sen. Jon Woods, Ec­cle­sia Col­lege Pres­i­dent Oren Paris III and con­sul­tant Ran­dell Shel­ton Jr. each have been charged with one count of con­spir­acy to com­mit fraud, the North­west Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette re­ported. The men were charged in a fed­eral in­dict­ment in March.

The Jus­tice De­part­ment al­leges that Paris paid Woods and for­mer state Rep. Micah Neal kick­backs for a to­tal of $550,000 in grants for his col­lege from 2013 to 2014. Shel­ton is ac­cused of us­ing his con­sult­ing firm to pass the kick­backs to Woods and Neal through con­sult­ing fees Paris ap­proved.

The re­vised in­dict­ment re­places pre­vi­ous grand jury in­dict­ments against Woods, Paris and Shel­ton.

Woods faces 15 counts of fraud and has also been charged with one count of money laun­der­ing. Paris and Shel­ton face 14 fraud charges. Woods, Paris and Shel­ton have pleaded not guilty and are sched­uled for trial Dec. 4. If con­victed, they face up to 20 years in prison on fraud con­spir­acy charges. Woods faces an ad­di­tional 10 years on the money laun­der­ing charge.

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