GOP Legislator Sentenced to 220 Months in Jail for Bible School Kickback Scheme

Sep 12, 2018

By Hemant Mehta

Former Arkansas State Senator Johnathan Woods has been sentenced to 220 months in prison for a fraud scheme that involved another Republican legislator and the president of a conservative Christian college.

Beginning in January of 2013, Woods and State Rep. Micah Neal gave $600,000 in taxpayer money to two non-profits in the state in exchange for bribes. One of those groups was Ecclesia College in the northwest part of the state. The small Bible school received the bulk of that money… but only because they agreed to give the politicians a healthy kickback.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Western District of Arkansas:

The evidence further showed that Woods and Neal received bribes from officials at both non-profits, including Oren Paris III, 50, of Springdale, Arkansas, who was the president of a college. Woods initially facilitated $200,000 of GIF money to the college and later, together with Neal, directed another $200,000 to the college, all in exchange for kickbacks. To pay and conceal the kickbacks to Woods and Neal, Paris paid a portion of the [General Improvement Funds] to a consulting company controlled by Randell G. Shelton Jr., 39, of Alma, Arkansas. Shelton then kept a portion of the money and paid the other portion to Woods and Neal. Paris also bribed Woods by hiring Woods’s friend to an administrative position at the college.

That’s… a lot of ethical and legal violations. You’ve got a Holy Trinity of Establishment Clause violations, bribery, and fraud.

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