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Former Arkansas lawmaker sentenced to 18 years in prison

September 5, 2018

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) — A former Arkansas state senator was sentenced Wednesday to more than 18 years in prison for his role in a bribery scheme.

Jon Woods was sentenced to 220 months in prison, plus three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay over $1.6 million in restitution.

Woods, a Republican, was convicted in May of 15 counts of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering for a bribery scheme in which prosecutors said he and another state legislator worked to steer state money to a private Christian college.

Prosecutors said Woods and former state Rep. Micah Neal directed approximately $600,000 in state funds to two nonprofits, including Ecclesia College, in exchange for kickbacks which were funneled through a consulting company.

Both Ecclesia College’s former president, Oren Paris III, and Neal have pleaded guilty and will be sentenced next week. Randell G. Shelton Jr, who controlled the consulting company, was found guilty of conspiracy and fraud in May and will be sentenced Thursday.

In a statement, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas Duane Kees said, “This sentence should send a message to the people who would abuse the trust of Arkansas voters and citizens. It should serve as a serious warning to those who would intentionally steal money from taxpayers and use their elected office to both commit and conceal their crimes.”

Woods is among several former Arkansas lawmakers who have been convicted or indicted of federal corruption charges over the past year. A nephew of the governor resigned from the state Senate Friday after being indicted on federal charges of spending thousands of campaign dollars on personal items.

Woods has been released on bond and must self-surrender for his sentence Sept. 26. Woods’ attorneys could not be reached for comment.

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