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Ex-execs of nonprofit face new charges in case tied to former state senator

by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette | November 6, 2019 at 6:21 p.m.
FILE - In this Aug. 2015 file photo, state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, R-Benton, speaks at a legislative subcommittee meeting at the state Capitol in Little Rock, Ark. Hutchinson, now a former lawmaker and nephew to the governor, has been indicted and accused of accepting bribes from a Missouri nonprofit in a widening federal corruption probe that's already ensnared several state legislators over the past two years. Hutchinson and two former executives of Springfield-based Preferred Family Healthcare, Inc. face multiple counts in an indictment unsealed Thursday, April 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston, File)

Federal prosecutors have filed new charges against former executives of a Springfield, Mo., behavioral health nonprofit, saying they paid former Arkansas Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson to introduce and lobby for a law to help the company win a state contract to provide educational services for prison inmates.

Western Missouri prosecutors added three counts of wire fraud against Tom and Bontiea Goss, former executives of Preferred Family Healthcare, in a superseding indictment returned by a grand jury on Wednesday.

The Gosses were already charged, with Hutchinson, in April in a multimillion-dollar public corruption scheme involving embezzlement, bribes and illegal campaign contributions.

The new charges center on Hutchinson’s Senate Bill 472 of 2015 to allow the Arkansas Department of Correction to enter into a contract for vocational and other training for inmates, according to Wednesday’s indictment.

After Hutchinson exchanged emails with the Gosses and former lobbyist Rusty Cranford in 2014, Bontiea Goss suggested changing the wording of the planned bill to give the contract to “an accredited community-based provider specializing in behavioral health, case management and job placement services,” such as Preferred Family Healthcare.

Hutchinson agreed to the language change, which remained in the final bill, according to Wednesday’s court filing.

Preferred Family issued seven checks in 2014 and 2015 of $9,000 each to Hutchinson while the bill was drafted and passed, which became Arkansas law as Act 895 of 2015, according to the superseding indictment.

It wasn't clear Wednesday whether Preferred Family ever received a state contract for training inmates.

Hutchinson, a former Little Rock Republican state senator, pleaded guilty to earlier public corruption charges involving Preferred Family Healthcare and others and awaits sentencing.

The Gosses, a married couple, have pleaded innocent.

Read the full story in Thursday's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.


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