Former Arkansas Lobbyist Indicted In $1 Million Bribery Scheme
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KFSM) — A former charity executive and Arkansas lobbyist has been indicted for his role in a nearly $1 million bribery conspiracy involving a Missouri health care organization, according to the U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Missouri.
Milton “Rusty” Cranford, 56, of Rogers is charged in a nine-count indictment unsealed Tuesday (Feb. 20), according to U.S. attorney Timothy A. Garrison.
In addition to the conspiracy, the indictment charges Cranford with eight counts of receiving a bribe by an agent of an organization that receives federal funds.
Cranford was being held without bond Wednesday (Feb. 21) at the Washington County Detention Center. He has a hearing set for 3 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 22) in U.S. District Court in Fayetteville, Ark.
Cranford was both a lobbyist and an employee of Preferred Family Healthcare, Inc. (formerly known as Alternative Opportunities, Inc.), a nonprofit corporation headquartered in Springfield.
Cranford served as an executive for the charity’s operations in the state of Arkansas. He also operated two lobbying firms, The Cranford Coalition and The Capital Hill Coalition, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
The indictment alleges that Cranford and co-conspirator Eddie Wayne Cooper, 51, of Melbourne, Ark., received $264,000 in secret kickback payments from co-conspirator Donald Andrew Jones, also known as “D.A.” Jones, of Willingboro, New Jersey, who was paid nearly $1 million by the charity in a bribery scheme that lasted almost six years, from February 2011 until January 2017.
Cooper, a former state representative in Arkansas from 2006 through January 2011, worked for The Cranford Coalition as a lobbyist and held a full-time position as regional director for Preferred Family Healthcare.
Cranford allegedly recommended to the charity’s chief financial officer, chief operating officer and chief executive officer to enter into a contractual arrangement with Jones for lobbying and advocacy services.
Cranford influenced the charity in its award of the contract, the indictment says, then demanded payments to himself and Cooper of a portion of the funds Jones obtained from the charity in exchange for Cranford’s influence on Jones’s behalf.
According to the indictment, the charity paid Jones a total of $973,807 to provide advocacy services for the charity, including direct contact with legislators, legislators’ offices, and government officials, in order to influence elected and appointed public officials to the financial benefit of the charity, including attempting to steer grants and other sources of funding to the charity.
Jones allegedly paid a total of $264,000 to Cranford and Cooper. Most of the funds were paid to Cranford or one of his firms, the indictment says.