Fort Smith, Arkansas - A consultant along with his co-conspirators, the President of an Arkansas college and a former Arkansas State Representative, were sentenced in the past week for their roles in a bribery scheme in which state funds were directed to non-profit entities in exchange for kickbacks, announced Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Duane “DAK” Kees for the Western District of Arkansas.
Randell G. Shelton Jr., 39, of Kemp, Texas, a consultant, was sentenced on Sept. 6 by U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks to serve 72 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $660,698 and to forfeit $664,000. Shelton was convicted by a federal jury on May 3 of 12 counts, including conspiracy and honest services wire and mail fraud. Also convicted in the scheme was former Arkansas State Senator Jonathan E. Woods, 41, of Springdale, Arkansas, of 15 counts, including conspiracy, honest services wire and mail fraud, and money laundering.
Oren Paris III, 50, of Springdale, Arkansas, President of Ecclesia College, was sentenced yesterday to serve 36 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $621,500. Paris pleaded guilty before Judge Brooks to one count of honest services wire fraud on April 5.
Micah Neal, 43, of Springdale, Arkansas, a former Arkansas State Representative was sentenced today to three years probation including the first year to be served as home confinement and the second and third years to include 300 hours of community service. Neal was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $200,000 to the State of Arkansas and the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District (NWAEDD). Neal previously pleaded guilty before Judge Brooks to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud.
According to admissions made in his plea agreement, Neal served as an Arkansas State Representative from 2013 to 2017. Neal admitted, and evidence presented at trial for Woods and Shelton revealed, that between sometime in 2013 and January 2015, Neal conspired with Woods to use their official positions to appropriate and direct government money, known as General Improvement Funds (GIF), to two non-profit entities in exchange for bribes. Specifically, Neal and Woods authorized and directed the NWAEDD, which was responsible for disbursing the GIF, to award a total of approximately $600,000 in GIF money to the two non-profit entities. Pursuant to his plea agreement, Neal admitted that of the $600,000, he personally authorized and directed a total of $175,000 to the entities. In return for his official actions, Neal received approximately $38,000 in bribes from the two non-profit entities.
Neal was the fourth defendant involved in this bribery scheme to be sentenced within the past week. On Sept. 5, Woods was sentenced by Judge Brooks to serve 220 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,621,500 and to forfeit $1,097,005.
The FBI and IRS-Criminal Investigation investigated the case. Trial Attorney Sean F. Mulryne of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and First Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Elser and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kyra Jenner and Aaron Jennen of the Western District of Arkansas prosecuted the case.