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story.lead_photo.caption Milton Cranford

Lobbyist Milton R. "Rusty" Cranford of Rogers was arrested Wednesday morning, spokesman Don Ledford of the U.S. Attorney's office for the western district of Missouri confirmed, though he declined to provide further details.

Cranford was an Arkansas lobbyist for Preferred Family Healthcare, a Springfield, Mo.-based nonprofit. Three executives of Preferred Family embezzled $4 million of the company's money for political contributions and lobbying, according to a guilty plea last week.

Cranford was both the employer and business partner of former state Rep. Eddie Cooper of Melbourne, who pleaded guilty to his part in the Preferred Family-related scheme on Feb. 12.

Former state Sen. Jon Woods faces trial April 9 on allegations he took a kickback in exchange for his and ex-State Rep. Micah Neal's support in getting a $400,000 state grant to a company incorporated by Cranford. Neal pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy on Jan. 4, 2017.

Cranford's attorney, Nathan Garrett of Kansas City, did not return a telephone call to his firm requesting comment Wednesday morning.

Cranford employed Cooper at the Cranford Coalition lobbying firm in Little Rock from 2011 to 2015, and they co-founded a lobbying firm in Missouri together in 2013, records in each state show.

Cranford has registered as a lobbyist since at least 2005 in Arkansas, at times as an individual and under the corporation names Cranford & Associates, the Cranford Coalition, Outcomes of Arkansas and Progressive Politics.

Click here for more coverage from the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, and read Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette for full details.

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