Former Lobbyist Pleads Guilty In Bribery Scheme Involving Three Arkansas Lawmakers

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — A former lobbyist has pleaded guilty in a multimillion-dollar scheme to bribe Arkansas lawmakers and embezzle from a Missouri-based nonprofit where he also worked.

Federal prosecutors in Missouri say Rusty Cranford, of Rogers, Arkansas, admitted Thursday to paying bribes to former state Sen. Jon Woods, former state Rep. Henry Wilkins IV and an Arkansas state lawmaker referred to as “Senator A.” Besides working as a lobbyist, Cranford oversaw Springfield, Missouri-based Preferred Family Healthcare’s operations in Arkansas.

Woods has been convicted, and Wilkins has pleaded guilty in connection with the scheme. Both await sentencing in Arkansas.

Prosecutors say that in exchange for the bribes, officials steered public money to the nonprofit and other Cranford clients, requested legislative audits and backed favorable legislation. Cranford faces up to 10 years in prison.