Two former executives of a Springfield, Missouri-based charity pleaded guilty yesterday to their roles in a multimillion-dollar public corruption scheme involving embezzlement and bribes paid to numerous elected officials in the state of Arkansas.
According to court documents, Bontia Bernedette Goss, 63, and her husband, Tommy “Tom” Ray Goss, 66, were senior executives at Preferred Family Healthcare Inc., a charitable organization that provides a variety of services to individuals in Missouri, Arkansas , Kansas, Oklahoma and Illinois, including mental and behavioral health treatment and counseling, substance abuse treatment and counseling, employment assistance, developmental disability assistance, and medical services. In exchange for the bribes and kickbacks offered and paid by the Goss family and other co-conspirators, elected state officials in Arkansas provided favorable legislative and official action to the charity, including but not limited to channeling funds from the state’s General Improvement Fund (GIF) .
Under the terms of their respective plea agreements, the Goss must forfeit up to $4.3 million to the government, as determined by the court at their sentencing.
Bontia Goss pleaded guilty to conspiracy to pay bribes and kickbacks to elected officials in Arkansas. Tom Goss pleaded guilty to participating in the conspiracy by embezzling funds from the charity, as well as paying bribes and kickbacks to elected officials in Arkansas. Tom Goss also pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and abetting the preparation and filing of a false tax return. Bontia Goss faces up to five years in federal prison without parole. Tom Goss faces up to eight years in federal prison without parole. A federal district court judge will determine each sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Earlier this year, Preferred Family Healthcare agreed to pay more than $8 million in forfeiture and restitution to the federal government and the state of Arkansas under the terms of a non-prosecution agreement that acknowledged the criminal conduct of its former officers and employees.
Several former executives from the charity, former members of the Arkansas state legislature and others pleaded guilty in federal court as part of the long-running, multi-jurisdictional federal investigation, including the following:
- The former CEO, Marilyn Luann Nolan of Springfield, Missouri, pleaded guilty in November 2018 to participating in a conspiracy to embezzle and misappropriate the funds of a charity that received federal funds.
- Former chief operating officer and executive vice president Robin Ravendran of Little Rock, Arkansas, pleaded guilty in June 2019 to conspiracy to commit bribery with respect to programs receiving federal funds.
- Former CEO and Chief Clinical Operations Officer Keith Fraser Noble of Rogersville, Missouri, pleaded guilty in September 2019 to concealing a known felony.
- A former employee and head of operations and lobbying in Arkansas, Milton Russell Cranford, aka Rusty, of Rogers, Arkansas, was sentenced to seven years in federal prison without parole after pleading guilty to one count of federal bribery. program.
- Political consultant Donald Andrew Jones, also known as DA Jones, of Willingboro, New Jersey, pleaded guilty in December 2017 to participating in a conspiracy from April 2011 to January 2017 to steal from an organization that received federal funds.
- Former Arkansas State Senator Jeremy Hutchinson of Little Rock, Arkansas, pleaded guilty in June 2019 to conspiracy to commit bribery under a federal program.
- Former Arkansas state representative Eddie Wayne Cooper of Melbourne, Arkansas, pleaded guilty in February 2018 to conspiring to embezzle more than $4 million from Preferred Family Healthcare.
- Former Arkansas State Senator and Representative Henry “Hank” Wilkins IV pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery under a federal program and to devise a scheme and artifice to defraud and deprive Arkansas citizens of their right to honest services.
Senior Trial Attorney Marco A. Palmieri and Attorney Jacob Steiner of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section; Assistant Supervising U.S. Attorney Randall Eggert and Assistant U.S. Attorney Shannon T. Kempf for the Western District of Missouri; Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephanie Mazzanti for the Eastern District of Arkansas; and Assistant United States Attorney Steven M. Molhenrich for the Western District of Arkansas are prosecuting the separate criminal cases.
The IRS criminal investigation, the FBI and the offices of inspectors general of the Departments of Justice, Labor and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) investigated the cases.
This is a combined prosecution with the Public Integrity Section of the Criminal Division, Western District of Missouri, Eastern District of Arkansas, and Western District of Arkansas.