Former State Senator Jon Woods Arraigned In Federal Court

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FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) -- A former Springdale state senator who was indicted in a fraud scheme earlier this month pleaded not guilty to fraud charges during a U.S. District Court arraignment hearing on Tuesday (March 28).

Jon Woods was indicted on 13 charges by a grand jury on March 2 in connection to a kickback and bribery scheme.

Woods' pleaded not guilty during his hearing at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, but he will have to post a $10,000 bond. Woods' trial will begin May 8.

Woods is facing 11 counts of honest services wire fraud, one count of money laundering and one count of honest services mail fraud.

In January, State Representative Micah Neal pleaded guilty to one count of honest services fraud.

The indictment outlined the scheme to steer General Improvement Fund money from the state legislature to projects supported through funding distributed by the Northwest Arkansas Development District.

The indictment also named the president of Ecclesia College in Springdale, Oren Paris III, who is facing nine counts of honest services wire fraud and one count of honest services mail fraud after receiving funding from GIF monies. The college is not listed in the indictment.

An Alma man, Randell G. Shelton Jr., is also listed in the indictment as part of an unnamed consulting company that was used to pay and conceal the kickbacks that Woods and Neal were allegedly receiving.

Both Shelton and Paris also pleaded not guilty during arraignment hearings on Tuesday. Their trials will also begin on May 8.

The purposes of the scheme outlined in the lengthy indictment state that:

  • Woods and Neal sought to enrich themselves “by soliciting and accepting bribes in exchange for using their official positions as Arkansas legislators to direct GIF monies” to two different entities, identified as Entity A and C;
  • Paris sought to enrich himself, his family, and Entity A, by “paying bribes to Woods and Neal through Shelton”; and
  • Shelton sought to enrich himself by “keeping a portion of the bribe funds paid to Woods and Neal.”
  • The activity took place between 2013 and 2015 and included GIF monies totaling $600,000 over the course of the alleged illegal efforts.

While Neal has pleaded guilty both Paris and Woods say they are innocent of any wrongdoing.

Editor's note: A former version of this story incorrectly stated that Woods pleaded guilty to fraud charges on Tuesday (March 28). 


1 Comment

  • usarmyairborne

    IF Jon Woods is smart he will take a plea deal. There is simply too much evidence against him for a not guilty plea.

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