Steven B. Jones and Phillip W. Carter were both sentenced to federal prison Thursday morning in connection with a bribery and corruption probe involving a bribery scheme and the Arkansas Department of Human Services, federal prosecutors said.
Jones, who is a former state representative and a former Arkansas Department of Human Services deputy director, was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison while Carter was given a 24-month prison sentence and two years’ supervised release.
Both were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson at the federal courthouse in Little Rock.
Jones, who was also given two years supervised release, was charged in late 2014 with conspiracy to commit bribery involving programs receiving federal funding, honest services wire fraud and federal funds bribery, prosecutors said Thursday. Carter, who was a former probation officer in West Memphis as well as a local council member, was also charged with conspiracy to commit bribery concerning programs receiving federal funding as well as honest services wire fraud.
Prosecutors said earlier this year that Jones, Carter, Ted Suhl of Warm Springs and a fourth unidentified person were involved in nearly a four-year scheme.
“According to the plea agreements, Carter and a local pastor served as intermediaries in a bribery scheme involving Jones and Theodore Suhl, the owner of two businesses that provided inpatient and outpatient mental health services to juveniles. Jones admitted that, beginning in April 2007 and while serving as ADHS deputy director, he solicited and accepted multiple cash payments and other things of value from Suhl. Suhl provided the cash payments and other things of value to Jones through Carter and the pastor, and in return, Jones admitted that he agreed to perform official acts that benefitted Suhl and his businesses,” the press release from United States Attorney Chris Thyer said. “As part of their pleas, both Jones and Carter admitted that they and other members of the conspiracy concealed their activity and dealings by, among other things, holding periodic meetings at restaurants in Memphis, Tennessee, or in rural Arkansas where they would not be easily recognized; funneling the cash payments through the pastor’s church; providing the bribe payments to Jones in cash so that the transactions would not be easily traceable; and speaking in code during telephone conversations.”
Suhl, who pleaded not guilty, was indicted Dec. 2 by a federal grand jury in Little Rock on one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and honest services fraud, three counts of honest services fraud, one count of federal funds bribery and one count of interstate travel in aid of bribery.
Suhl is set to go on trial July 12 in federal court in Little Rock in front of United States District Judge Billy Roy Wilson.