Former Arkansas State Representative Sentenced To Three Years Probation For Wire Fraud
Fayetteville, Arkansas – Duane (DAK) Kees, United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas announced today that Micah Neal, age 43, of Springdale, Arkansas, was sentenced today to three years probation including the first year to be served as home confinement and the second and third years to include 300 hours of community service, he was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $200,000.00. The Honorable Timothy L. Brooks presided over the sentencing hearing in the United States District Court in Fayetteville.
“Public corruption cases are among the most serious crimes that are investigated and prosecuted in our District,” said U.S. Attorney Kees. “These cases represent the very worst in deception and fraud because they involve a betrayal of the public trust. Jon Woods and Micah Neal were elected to offices in the State of Arkansas and swore an oath to protect and uphold the Arkansas Constitution. They failed that oath by betraying those who voted for them and scheming to steal money that rightfully belonged to the tax-payers and voters in the State of Arkansas. The sentences last week and this week in the public corruption scheme involving G.I.F. funds and bribery are the result of years of hard work by the assigned Assistant United States Attorneys working in partnership with the FBI and the IRS Criminal Investigation. It is my sincere hope that these sentences will serve as a deterrence for any individuals who would attempt to corrupt the legislative process in our State in the future. My office will continue to aggressively pursue public corruption cases and work with our partners in bringing those individuals to justice.”
According to the evidence presented at trial, Jonathan Woods served as an Arkansas State Senator from 2013 to 2017. Between approximately 2013 and approximately 2015, Woods used his official position as a senator to appropriate and direct government money, known as General Improvement Funds (GIF), to two non-profit entities by, among other things, directly authorizing GIF disbursements and advising other Arkansas legislators – including former State Representative Neal, to contribute GIF to the non-profits. Specifically, Woods and Neal authorized and directed the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District, which was responsible for disbursing the GIF, to award a total of approximately $600,000 in GIF money to the two non-profit entities. The evidence further showed that Woods and Neal received bribes from officials at both non-profits, including Paris, who was the president of a college. Woods initially facilitated $200,000 of GIF money to the college and later, together with Neal, directed another $200,000 to the college, all in exchange for kickbacks. To pay and conceal the kickbacks to Woods and Neal, Paris paid a portion of the GIF to Shelton’s consulting company. Shelton then kept a portion of the money and paid the other portion to Woods and Neal. Paris also bribed Woods by hiring Woods’s friend to an administrative position at the college.
For his part in the scheme, Neal pleaded guilty on Jan. 4, 2017, before U.S. District Judge Timothy L. Brooks of the Western District of Arkansas to one count of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud. Paris pleaded guilty on April 5, 2018, before Judge Brooks to one count of honest services wire fraud. Woods was sentenced September 5, 2018 to 220 months in federal prison, Shelton was sentenced September 6, 2018 to 72 months in federal prison and Paris was sentenced September 12, 2018 to 36 months in federal prison.
The FBI and IRS investigated the case. First Assistant U.S. Attorney Kenneth Elser, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kyra Jenner and Aaron Jennen of the Western District of Arkansas and Trial Attorney Sean F. Mulryne of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice prosecuted the case.