Corruption, Government

Evangelical Christian Arkansas Republican Pleads Guilty in Bible College Bribery Scheme

An Arkansas Republican lawmaker pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of personally profiting from a bribery and kickback scheme related to a northwest Arkansas evangelical Christian college.

Raw Story reported this could land state Rep. Michah Neal in prison for up to 20 years and cost him a fine of up to $250,000. However, since it is his first time being caught he will likely not face the maximum fine or sentence for his crimes.

A Justice Department news release says, “As part of his guilty plea, Neal admitted that, between January 2013 and January 2015, while serving in the Arkansas House of Representatives, he conspired with an Arkansas state senator to use their official positions to appropriate government money known as General Improvement Funds (GIF) to a pair of non-profit entities in exchange for bribes. Of the $600,000, Neal personally authorized and directed a total of $175,000 to the entities. In return for his official actions, Neal received approximately $38,000 in bribes from officials at those non-profit entities.”

Ecclesia officials deny any financial wrongdoing on their part. School president Dr. Oren Paris III took to Facebook, proclaiming his and the college’s innocence.

“I can unequivocally state that neither I nor Ecclesia College have been party to illegal activity. We have never been a party to any agreements to funnel money to any state legislator,” wrote Paris.

“The Plea Agreement, however, suggests that the President of one of the two non-profit groups — all signs point to Paris (a.k.a. “Person B”) — was actively involved in the scandal,” said Mehta. “If that’s confirmed, it’d be a major blow to the school and its leader. This Facebook post could also easily come back to haunt him.”

Neal dropped out of his re-election race last summer citing “family and business” concerns.

According to the plea agreement, the state senator conspired with a lobbyist, a consultant and representatives of the nonprofits.

(Article by Jeremiah Jones)

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