Last edited 2:08 p.m., Nov. 14, 2018
Former Preferred Family Healthcare Inc. CEO Marilyn Nolan pleaded guilty to participating in a multimillion-dollar political corruption scheme that involved bribes and campaign contributions for elected officials in Missouri and Arkansas.
Marilyn Nolan, 68, of Springfield, made the plea Nov. 9 before Judge David Rush to one count of conspiracy to embezzle and misapply the funds to a nonprofit that received federal monies, according to a news release issued yesterday by the office of Tim Garrison, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri. Nolan agreed to pay $4.1 million in restitution to the federal government, less a credit for taxes she paid on the funds received.
Nolan admitted she conspired with others to illegally push millions of dollars worth of the nonprofit’s funds to lobbying firms and political advocates, make contributions to candidates’ campaigns and bribe public officials. She also admitted she was aware her co-conspirators defrauded the nonprofit to enrich themselves and herself.
Nolan, according to the release, started working at Alternative Opportunities Inc. in 1992 and continued as an employee of the company after it merged with PFH in 2015. In her guilty plea, she admitted to conspiring with others from 2008 to June 30, 2017.
According to the plea agreement, Nolan admitted to working with co-conspirators to:
• cause PFH to misapply funds for political advocacy, including lobbying, in violation of federal laws;
• encourage employees of the nonprofit to contribute to candidates for public office and cause the organization to reimburse them by falsely labeling the expenses as for travel or other reasons;
• use nonprofit resources for catering, liquor, decorations and food connected to political fundraisers;
• cause the charity to make in-kind contributions to candidates for public office, including for the Missouri state Senate and Greene County Commission;
• bribe public officials in exchange for political favor and disguise bribe payments as expenses for consulting, training and legal services;
• hire public officials and their family members as nonprofit employees; and
• willfully blind herself to the conduct of co-conspirators who embezzled millions of dollars from PFH from 2005 to 2017.
According to the release, government officials believe the schemes Nolan pleaded guilty to totaled about $6 million.
Nolan’s plea agreement also references the creation of an unnamed limited liability corporation used as the management company for Alternative Opportunities. The latter was sold in 2006 to a publicly traded company to enrich charity executives, including herself, according to the release. A 2006 U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing shows a purchase agreement between Alternative Opportunities, management company W.D. Management LLC and publicly traded company Providence Service Corp.
Under federal statutes, Nolan could be sent to federal prison for up to five years, according to the release.
The release does not name Nolan’s co-conspirators, though former PFH Chief Clinical Officer Keith Noble pleaded guilty in September to concealing a known felony. Former Chief Operations Officer Bontiea Goss — who recently penned a letter to the editor to Springfield Business Journal — and her husband and company Chief Financial Officer Tom Goss have been implicated but not charged. Chris Plumlee and Melanie Morgan of Rogers, Arkansas-based law firm Mitchell, Williams, Selig, Gates & Woodyard PLLC issued a statement on behalf of the Gosses.
“People with intellectual/developmental disabilities, mental illness, behavioral and substance abuse disorders, and disabled veterans are among the most vulnerable in our community because they are unable to speak up or out for what they need. While serving as executives of a progressive and innovative health care organization that represented an underserved client base, it was our mission to constantly champion the interests of these clients,” the statement reads. “We maintain our belief that our actions were within the bounds of the law, motivated by protecting the interests of the clients we served. At no time have we been part of any criminal conspiracy and vehemently deny any allegations to the contrary.”
Others who have pleaded guilty to roles in the PFH scheme include Arkansas lobbyist Rusty Cranford and Pennsylvania political consultant Donald Jones.
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