Former Ecclesia College President Sentenced To Three Years In Prison

FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM) -- The former president of Ecclesia College was sentenced Wednesday (Sept. 12) to three years in federal prison for his role in a kickback scheme involving state legislators.

Oren Paris III pleaded guilty in April to transfer $50,000 of $200,000 in grant money from former state legislators John Woods and Micah Neal to consultant Randall Shelton.

Shelton sent $40,000 of the money to Woods as a kickback, according to Paris’ plea.

Paris' sentence will be followed by three years of supervised release. He'll owe $621,500 in restitution.

In addition to pleading guilty, Paris also quit as the college president and resigned from the board of the school his father founded.

Shelton and Woods were convicted in May. Both men were sentenced last week -- Woods to 18 years in prison while Shelton got six years.

Neal is set for sentencing Thursday (Sept. 13).

Prosecutors accused the group of directing money to Ecclesia College under a state grant program that has since been found to be unconstitutional, according to the Associated Press.

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 were 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.