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Preferred Family Healthcare exec in Arkansas indicted

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An Arkansas-based executive of Springfield nonprofit Preferred Family Healthcare Inc. was indicted Feb. 20 for his role in a politically charged conspiracy.

Milton, aka Rusty, Cranford, 56, of Rogers, Arkansas, was charged in a nine-count indictment that was made public yesterday upon his arrest. Cranford’s initial court appearance is scheduled today at U.S. District Court in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He’s charged with conspiracy and receiving a bribe from an agent of an organization that receives federal funds, according to a news release from the office of Timothy Garrison, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri.

Cranford led PFH’s Arkansas operations and also worked as a lobbyist for his companies, The Cranford Coalition and The Capital Hill Coalition.

The indictment alleges Cranford and co-conspirator Eddie Cooper — a former Arkansas state representative who last week pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy — received $264,000 in illegal kickbacks from co-conspirator Donald Jones. Jones, a Pennsylvania political consultant, pleaded guilty in December to receiving nearly $1 million from PFH in a six-year bribery scheme.

Cranford is accused of recommending that PFH’s chief financial officer, chief operating officer and CEO enter into agreements with Jones for lobbying and advocacy services. Cranford allegedly demanded payments to himself and Cooper in exchange for Jones’ political influence. PFH COO Bontiea Goss, her husband and company CFO Tom Goss, and CEO Marilyn Nolan are not named in the release. They were put on unpaid administrative leave around the same times Jones entered his guilty plea, according to Springfield Business Journal reporting. The Gosses and Nolan have not been charged.

The indictment alleges PFH paid Jones $973,807 for political influence that included grant and other funding coercion.

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