Two Former Arkansas Officials Sentenced for Bribery Scheme
A former deputy director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services (ADHS), a multibillion-dollar state agency, and a former probation officer in Crittenden County, Arkansas, and West Memphis, Arkansas, councilmember were sentenced today in Little Rock, Arkansas, for engaging in a bribery scheme involving the owner of two mental health companies, announced Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division and First Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick C. Harris of the Eastern District of Arkansas.
Steven B. Jones, 51, of Marion, Arkansas, the former deputy director of ADHS, was sentenced to 30 months for conspiracy to commit bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds and honest services wire fraud and for federal funds bribery. Co-conspirator Phillip W. Carter, 47, also of Marion, was sentenced to 24 months for conspiracy to commit bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds and honest services wire fraud.
According to the plea agreements, Carter and a local pastor served as intermediaries in a bribery scheme involving Jones and Theodore Suhl, the owner of two businesses that provided inpatient and outpatient mental health services to juveniles. Jones admitted that, beginning in April 2007 and while serving as ADHS deputy director, he solicited and accepted multiple cash payments and other things of value from Suhl. Suhl provided the cash payments and other things of value to Jones through Carter and the pastor, and in return, Jones admitted that he agreed to perform official acts that benefitted Suhl and his businesses.
As part of their pleas, both Jones and Carter admitted that they and other members of the conspiracy concealed their activity and dealings by, among other things, holding periodic meetings at restaurants in Memphis, Tennessee, or in rural Arkansas where they would not be easily recognized; funneling the cash payments through the pastor’s church; providing the bribe payments to Jones in cash so that the transactions would not be easily traceable; and speaking in code during phone conversations.
On Dec. 2, 2015, Suhl was indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services fraud, three counts of honest services fraud, one count federal funds bribery and one count of interstate travel in aid of bribery and is awaiting trial. The charges and allegations contained in that indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
The FBI’s Little Rock Field Office investigated both cases. Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela S. Jegley of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Arkansas and Trial Attorney Edward P. Sullivan of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section prosecuted Jones’s case. Trial Attorneys Edward P. Sullivan, Lauren Bell and Gwendolyn A. Stamper of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section prosecuted Carter’s case.