FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) — Former state senator Jon Woods was sentenced Wednesday (Sept. 5) to federal prison for 18 years for fraud and money laundering convictions.
Woods was sentenced to 220 months in prison for organizing and leading a bribery scheme in which state funds were directed to non-profit entities in exchange for kickbacks, many of which were funneled through a consultant's business, U.S. Attorney Duane Kees for the Western District of Arkansas announced Wednesday.
U.S. District Judge Tim Brooks handed down the sentence in a packed courtroom at the John Paul Hammerschmidt Federal Building in downtown Fayetteville at around 2:15 p.m.
A federal jury in May convicted Woods on 15 of 17 charges related to wire fraud, mail fraud, and money laundering. U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks of the Western District of Arkansas sentenced Woods to
Prosecutors accused then-State Sen. Jon Woods and Rep. Micah Neal of directing money between 2013 and 2015 to Ecclesia College under a state grant program that has since been found to be unconstitutional, according to the Associated Press.
Woods and Neal were charged alongside Ecclesia College President Oren Paris III and consultant Randell Shelton of directing state funding to the college in Springdale in exchange for kickbacks, the AP reported.
Shelton was found guilty on 12 of 15 counts. Neal and Paris pleaded guilty before the trial. All three are set for sentencing this month.
Investigators said the scheme sought to steer General Improvement Fund money from the state legislature to projects supported through funding distributed by the Northwest Arkansas Development District.
The purposes of the scheme was laid out in a lengthy indictment:
- 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.