Charity Executives, Former Arkansas State Senator Indicted for Embezzlement and Public Corruption Scheme
Two former executives of a Springfield, Missouri-based charity and a former Arkansas state senator have been indicted by a federal grand jury for their roles in a multi-million-dollar public corruption scheme that involved embezzlement, bribes and illegal campaign contributions for elected public officials in Missouri and Arkansas, announced Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Tim Garrison of the Western District of Missouri.
Bontiea Bernedette Goss, 63, her husband, Tommy Ray Goss, aka “Tom,” 63, both residents of Springfield, Missouri, and Boulder, Colorado, and Jeremy Young Hutchinson, 45, of Little Rock, Arkansas, were charged on March 29, 2019, in a 32-count indictment by a federal grand jury in Springfield, which was unsealed today.
The indictment alleges that the Gosses, who were high-level executives at Preferred Family Healthcare Inc. (formerly known as Alternative Opportunities Inc.), and Hutchinson, who is an attorney and served as a state senator in the Arkansas Senate from 2011 to 2018, along with others, participated in a conspiracy from 2005 to November 2017 to embezzle and misapply the funds of a charitable organization that received federal funds, to pay bribes and kickbacks to elected officials (including Hutchinson), and to deprive the citizens of Arkansas of their right to the honest services of those elected officials. According to the indictment, in exchange for the bribes and kickbacks offered by the Gosses and other co-conspirators, Hutchinson and other elected officials allegedly provided favorable legislative and official action for the charity, including directing funds from the state’s General Improvement Fund (GIF).
The indictment also alleges that the Gosses and others defrauded the charity, and the governmental entities that funded the charity, by embezzling and misapplying charity funds for their personal benefit, including, but not limited to:
- causing the charity to pay for chartered air flights for the Gosses to commute between their home in Colorado and their work at the charity’s office in Springfield;
- providing millions of dollars in interest-free loans to their for-profit companies;
- charging the charity inflated prices to lease vehicles from their for-profit companies;
- renting charity-owned commercial real estate to one of their for-profit companies at below-market rates or, in some instances, for free; and
- using charity funds to pay for personal services for themselves, including child and pet care, housekeeping and cleaning their personal residences, picking up and delivering groceries, and shoveling snow, among other personal services paid for by the charity.
The indictment also contains a forfeiture allegation, which would require the Gosses and Hutchinson to forfeit to the government any property obtained from the proceeds of the alleged offenses.
The charity was known as Alternative Opportunities Inc. from its founding in 1991 until its 2015 merger with Preferred Family Healthcare. The charity, which is cooperating with federal investigators, provided a variety of services to individuals in Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, including mental and behavioral health treatment and counseling, substance abuse treatment and counseling, employment assistance, aid to individuals with developmental disabilities and medical services.
An indictment contains only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
The investigation was conducted by IRS Criminal Investigation, the FBI, and the Offices of the Inspectors General from the Departments of Justice, Labor, and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). This is a combined investigation by the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section, the U.S. Attorney’s Offices in the Western District of Arkansas and the Eastern District of Arkansas. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Marco A. Palmieri of the Public Integrity Section, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven M. Mohlhenrich of the Western District of Missouri, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Ben Wulff of the Western District of Arkansas and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Mazzanti of the Eastern District of Arkansas.