Former Arkansas state senator pleads guilty to bribery

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Arkansas Corruption_1561400048844

FILE – In this Aug. 18, 2015 file photo, state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Benton, speaks at the state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark.. Hutchinson, a former Arkansas lawmaker who is also the governor’s nephew, is changing his plea to federal charges he spent thousands of dollars in campaign funds on trips, groceries and other personal […]

A former Arkansas state senator pleaded guilty in federal court today to accepting multiple bribes in connection with a multi-district investigation spanning the Western District of Missouri and Eastern and Western Districts of Arkansas.

Jeremy Hutchinson, 45, of Little Rock, Arkansas, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery.

Hutchinson, who was previously a state senator and representative, resigned in August 2018 after he was indicted in the Eastern District of Arkansas.

Hutchinson pleaded guilty today to his role in a multi-million-dollar public corruption scheme that involved embezzlement, bribes and illegal campaign contributions for elected public officials. Hutchinson admitted that he was hired by then-Chief Operating Officer Bontiea Goss as outside counsel for Preferred Family Healthcare, Inc. (formerly known as Alternative Opportunities, Inc.), and in exchange for payments and legal work, Hutchinson performed official acts on behalf of the Springfield, Missouri-based healthcare charity, including holding up agency budgets and drafting and voting on legislation.

Goss, a former executive at the charity, is charged in the same superseding indictment to which Hutchinson pleaded guilty.

According to today’s plea agreement, the charity paid Hutchinson a monthly retainer from May 2014 until 2017. In total, Hutchinson was paid more than $350,000 in charity funds. Hutchinson also received hotel rooms and Major League Baseball tickets paid for by the charity, and the use of the charity’s luxury and recreational real estate.

Hutchinson further admitted as part of his plea that: he understood that he was paid by Alternative Opportunities, Inc., and Preferred Family Healthcare, Inc., primarily because of his position as an elected public official; that he worked to further the interests of the non-profit while in the Arkansas State Legislature; that Goss, along with Milton Russell Cranford (also known as “Rusty”) and Robin Raveendran, both of whom served as executives for the charity and have also pleaded guilty for their role in the bribery scheme, directed Hutchinson to move the charity’s political agenda forward in the Arkansas Senate; and that Hutchinson performed some legal work for the charity to conceal his corrupt arrangement with the charity’s executives.

Hutchinson is subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole and a fine of up to $250,000.

(edited press release)

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