Arkansas Business – A jury convicted former Arkansas Treasurer Martha Shoffner of federal bribery and extortion charges Tuesday for accepting $36,000 in cash from a bond trader to whom she steered state business.
However, the judge still must rule on a motion to acquit filed by defense lawyers, who argued that the government didn’t prove key elements of its case, including that the payments affected interstate commerce and that the bonds involved federal funds.
Shoffner was arrested in May when FBI agents raided her home in Newport, finding $6,000 that was delivered in a pie box by bond dealer Steele Stephens after he began cooperating with authorities. That cash had been supplied by the FBI, though Stephens testified that he’d made a series of $6,000 payments with his own money, totaling $36,000 that he gave in exchange for getting more state bond business.
Prosecutors showed that Stephens had twice as much state bond business as any of the other 10 or so dealers approved to do business with the treasurer’s office. Stephens was granted immunity by prosecutors, which enabled him to escape any federal charges and keep the $2.5 million in commissions he picked up while doing business with Shoffner’s office.
Prosecutors kept Stephens on the witness stand for nearly a day and a half, which included playing a two-hour audio recording of Shoffner and him conversing while he wore a listening device in January 2013. The jury also watched a one-hour video recording from the day of Shoffner’s arrest. Stephens wore a hidden video camera for that exchange.
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