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Arkansas lawmaker pleads guilty to wire fraud, money laundering; governor says senator to resign soon

By Dave Hughes

This article was originally published January 29, 2018 at 2:52 p.m. Updated January 29, 2018 at 5:41 p.m.

sen-jake-files-is-shown-in-this-2013-file-photo

Sen. Jake Files is shown in this 2013 file photo.

FORT SMITH — State Sen. Jake Files pleaded guilty Monday afternoon in federal court to charges of wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering. Hours later, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he expects the lawmaker to resign in the coming days.

Files was charged in a federal complaint of misusing state General Improvement Fund money and in pledging a forklift that he did not own as collateral for a bank loan in 2016.

After his plea hearing, Files was released on a $5,000 signature bond pending sentencing.

The FBI executed a search warrant against Files in August in relation to violation of federal wire fraud and money laundering laws, according to federal court records. An affidavit states Files put to his own use more than $25,000 in state General Improvement Fund money he had obtained for the defunct River Valley Sports Complex project on Fort Smith property.

[DOCUMENT: Read complete plea agreement filed in case]

Files admitted he falsified bids for water line work for the complex that was awarded to an employee. The employee said she turned over to Files the General Improvement Fund money that Files obtained for the project and that he used it to pay workers of his construction company and give employee bonuses, pocketing the remaining cash.

The Fort Smith Republican who has served in the state Senate since 2011.

Shortly after the plea was made public, the governor issued a statement calling for Files' "immediate resignation."

Hutchinson later said he spoke with the lawmaker, who indicated he will submit his resignation soon.

“While I have known and respected the Files family for many years, it is essential that the voters are able to trust elected officials to have the public’s interest free from criminal conduct," the governor wrote.

[DOCUMENT: Read federal information detailing allegations against Sen. Jake Files]

Sen. Jonathan Dismang, president pro tempore of the Arkansas Senate, said it was his understanding that Files would resign. He added that he'll be working to "make sure the process is followed."

In a statement posted to the Senate's website, Dismang said: "I consider Jake a friend and I'll be praying for him and his family."

Files announced last year that he would not seek re-election.

The state Democratic Party, which last year said Files should step down, again called on the lawmaker resign after his plea.

"In pleading guilty, Sen. Files is admitting to the corruption that he and the Republican party have denied for months," state Rep. Michael John Gray, who chairs the state Democratic Party, said in a statement. State GOP Chairman Doyle Webb said Monday he had spoken to Files and had encouraged him to resign.

Files' plea is the latest case involving misuse of the state's surplus money. Republican former state Sen. Jon Woods and two others have pleaded not guilty to corruption charges after prosecutors said they participated in a scheme under which Woods allegedly directed state money to Ecclesia College in return for kickbacks, and are set to go to trial this spring. Republican former state Rep. Micah Neal pleaded guilty last year to one count of fraud related to the case.

The state Supreme Court in October said the system of grants lawmakers had used to fund local projects with the state surplus money violated Arkansas' constitution. The court said the local project grants violated a constitutional requirement that budget measures distinctly state their purpose.

Read Tuesday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

The Associated Press and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter Michael R. Wickline contributed to this story.

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Comments on: Arkansas lawmaker pleads guilty to wire fraud, money laundering; governor says senator to resign soon

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Displaying 1 - 9 of 9 total comments

TravisBickle says... January 29, 2018 at 3:29 p.m.

A crooked politician??!! No way!!

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DEE672 says... January 29, 2018 at 3:33 p.m.

Didn't you just know it was a Repug! Money is their god.

( | suggest removal )

gagewatcher says... January 29, 2018 at 3:54 p.m.

Dee you failed to mention the McDougals . Rose law firm creative billing. Jim guy tucker. old bill and hillary's cattle futures. lets do lunch Steve Clark what's going on with your selective memory . dementia or political bias ?

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besteven says... January 29, 2018 at 4:50 p.m.

Every person in public service is entitled to at least a modicum of decency from all others. Be carful of the plank in your eye if you focus on the splinter of your brother. All of us have flaws that is the way the LORD made us.

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sleeb506042217 says... January 29, 2018 at 5:33 p.m.

Repub/Dems/Crooks. American people/suckers. Have we learned yet that few, if any, politicians can be trusted??

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gagewatcher says... January 29, 2018 at 6:57 p.m.

sleeb the most professionals I've been ripped off by are lawyers... then lets see, house keeper, home health aid who actually stole my vacuum cleaner and one pair of pants, then a painter who got into my medicine cabinet and took some meds. or how about the idiot who snapped off my car's hood ornament ? or the upstanding citizen that bought a large wall mirror from me and shorted me 50 bucks ? yet stupid me i still believe in the goodness in people except for lawyers that is, Dante has a special level just for them.

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NoUserName says... January 29, 2018 at 7:41 p.m.

It was obvious the guy was guilty of a great many things. Hutchinson should have made sure the guy got bumped from his finance committee chair MONTHS ago. Expulsion proceedings should begin IMMEDIATELY. We shouldn't be waiting for this CRIMINAL to resign.

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2thepoint says... January 29, 2018 at 7:47 p.m.

Something stinks in the capitol at Little Rock. Resign soon? Are you kidding me? Vote Democratic and for any democratic women candidates on the ballot. We need to take back our country.

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GoBigRed says... January 29, 2018 at 9:40 p.m.

Love it. The guy pled guilty and will immediately resign, but people are still defending him. Selective memory? Political bias? The guy didn't try to defend his actions but you have. Maybe he should have consulted you before he copped a plea.

( | suggest removal )

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