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Ex-senator from Arkansas pleads guilty in PFH case

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Former Arkansas state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson admitted he accepted bribes from officials with Springfield-based Preferred Family Healthcare.

Hutchinson, 45, of Little Rock, Arkansas, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery. Under federal statutes, he could be fined up to $250,000 and face up to five years in prison, according to a news release from the office of Tim Garrison, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri.

Hutchinson, who resigned from public office in August 2018 after being indicted in Arkansas, pleaded guilty to his role in the multimillion-dollar PFH public corruption scheme involving bribes, illegal campaign contributions and embezzlement. He was charged in an April indictment along with Bontiea and Tom Goss, PFH’s former chief operating officer and chief financial officer, respectively. The Gosses, along with former CEO Marilyn Nolan, were fired by PFH in January 2018 after they were implicated by prosecutors in the scheme, Springfield Business Journal previously reported.

In his guilty plea, Hutchinson admitted he was hired by Bontiea Goss as outside counsel for PFH. In exchange for payments and legal work, Hutchinson admitted to performing official acts on behalf of PFH as a senator, including holding up agency budgets and drafting and voting on legislation. Hutchinson also admitted to working on behalf of Milton Russell and Robin Raveendran, who both were PFH executives and also have pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme, according to the release.

Hutchinson also admitted to performing legal work for PFH in order to conceal bribes from charity executives.

Last month, Hutchinson separately pleaded guilty in Arkansas to bribery and tax fraud, according to the release.

PFH was formed through the 2015 merger of Alternative Opportunities in Springfield and Preferred Family Healthcare in Kirksville. The nonprofit provides community services for individuals with developmental disabilities, child welfare, employment services and behavioral health, according to past SBJ reporting.


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