Monday, April 19, 2021

Sentencing set for U.S Senator Jon Woods, co-defendants in corruption case


Former state Sen. Jon Woods is set to be sentenced Sept. 5 on his May conviction of 15 charges of public corruption for taking kickbacks from state grants he directed to nonprofit groups.

Woods’ co-defendant, Randell Shelton Jr., will be sentenced Sept. 6. A federal jury found Shelton guilty of 12 charges.

Oren Paris III, former president of Ecclesia College in Springdale, pleaded guilty April 4 to one count of conspiracy and will be sentenced Sept. 12.

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The court also set sentencing for former state Rep. Micah Neal, who pleaded guilty Jan. 4, 2017, for his role in the scheme. His sentence is Sept. 13.

All the sentencings start at 9 a.m. at the federal courthouse in Fayetteville.

Woods and Shelton were convicted in a kickback scheme involving Ecclesia College. Woods was also convicted in a similar scheme for AmeriWorks, a Bentonville nonprofit company.

Shelton and Woods were both convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud. Woods was also convicted of money laundering in connection with the purchase of a cashier’s check. The remaining convictions were wire or mail fraud charges.

The trial started April 9 and the jury reached a verdict May 3. More than 300 motions, replies and orders filled the case file, and the trial had more than 400 exhibits, according to court records.

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Both defendants are free on the same bail they had met before the trial, but their travel was further restricted when they were convicted.

Shelton, Woods and Paris were indicted in March 2017.

Paris resigned as Ecclesia’s president and from the private, Christian college’s board before his guilty plea.

Paris disguised the kickbacks as consulting fees paid to Shelton’s business, Paradigm Strategic Consulting, according to the indictment. Shelton then passed the money along to Woods and Neal, the government said.

The exact amounts weren’t given in the indictment because many of the payments to Woods were in cash, the government said.


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