Bribery Conspiracy Leads to Guilty Plea
(RightWing.org) – Over the last 20 years, state governments have sought to create programs to make social services more effective. One way of doing so was to outsource many programs to non-profit groups. In some cases, it’s led to criminal charges against charity leaders and elected officials for wrongdoing.
In April, the Justice Department (DOJ) announced Preferred Family Healthcare, a Missouri-based non-profit, would pay over $8 million to the federal government and Arkansas. In accepting the agreement, it acknowledged its former officers and employees participated in criminal behavior, including embezzling funds and bribing elected officials. US attorneys said the organization held itself responsible for its past leadership’s behavior. On Thursday, September 29, the DOJ noted two ex-executives pleaded guilty to such a scheme.
Non-Profit Leaders Admit to Guilt
Preferred Family Healthcare provided mental and behavioral health services. Among them were general counseling, substance abuse treatments, help with employment, aid for those with developmental disabilities, and medical services. The charity conducted business in Arkansas, Kansas, Illinois, Missouri, and Oklahoma.
The DOJ announced that 63-year-old Bontiea Bernedette Goss and 66-year-old Tommy “Tom” Goss pleaded guilty to numerous crimes. Prosecutors alleged that the duo and others bribed and offered kickbacks to Arkansas legislators in exchange for passing legislation and official actions. The DOJ release noted lawmakers also directed money from the General Improvement Fund (GIF).
Bontiea Goss admitted to conspiracy to pay bribes and kickbacks to elected officials. She faces up to five years in prison without parole. Tom Goss pleaded guilty to embezzling funds from Preferred Family Healthcare, paying bribes and kickbacks to legislators, and one count of aiding assistance in preparing and presenting a false tax return. He faces up to eight years in jail without parole.
Under the terms of their individual plea deals, the couple must surrender $4.3 million to the government.
What About Others Involved in the Scheme?
The Goss family weren’t the only ones involved in the crimes. Numerous other individuals also admitted to misconduct. Among them were former Preferred Family Healthcare CEO Marilyn Luann Nolan, Director of Operations and Executive Vice President Robin Raveendran, and head of operations and lobbying in Arkansas, Milton Russell Cranford. Nolan and Raveendran’s trial is to begin on Monday, October 3, and a Cranford has already been sentenced to seven years in federal jail without parole.
Still, what about the elected officials?
In 2018, former State Rep. Eddie Wayne Cooper pleaded guilty to embezzling over $4 million from Preferred Family Health. In 2019, former State Senator Jeremy Hutchinson admitted to conspiracy to commit bribery. Former State Senator and State Representative Henry (Hank) Wilkins IV admitted to bribery and creating a scheme to defraud citizens of honest services.
The four legislators have not received a scheduled sentence hearing.
US Department of Labor Special Agent-in-Charge Steven Grell said those involved in the crimes misused and misappropriated millions of federal dollars meant for “employment training and behavioral healthcare services to the public.” Grell noted the ex-executives prioritized their financial gain and personal benefit over those the organization served.
IRS Criminal Investigator Special Agent in Charge Tyler Hatcher noted the former officers and charity employees used the organization to divert funds meant to help people. Instead, they illegally lined “their own pockets through fraud and bribery.”
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