After several date and time changes, the sentencing of former Sen. Jake Files is set for 10 a.m., June 18, in Fort Smith with U.S. District Judge P.K. Holmes III presiding.
Files, a Republican representing Fort Smith in the Arkansas Senate, pleaded guilty on Jan. 29 to one count of wire fraud, one count of money laundering and one count of bank fraud. He resigned his Senate seat on Feb. 9.
A presentencing report was filed March 29, but the document is sealed. Responses to the report were filed April 12 by the U.S. Attorney’s office and by Files’ attorney. Because those documents also are sealed, it’s unknown if either party accepted or objected to the sentencing range in the report.
Sentencing was initially set for June 7, but on April 4 was changed to June 18.
According to federal statute, bank fraud can carry a fine of up to $1 million and a prison sentence of up to 30 years. Mail and wire fraud carry a maximum prison sentence of up to 20 years. Money laundering fines can be twice the value of the money laundered (up to $500,000).
The court filing says Files authorized and directed the Western Arkansas Economic Development District, which was responsible for administrating the General Improvement Funds (GIF) in Files’ legislative district, to award a total of $46,500 in GIF money to the city of Fort Smith. To secure the release of the GIF money, Files prepared and submitted three fraudulent bids to the Western Arkansas Economic Development District. He then instructed an unnamed associate to open a bank account under her name to conceal his role as the ultimate beneficiary of the GIF award.
When a first installment of approximately $26,900 was wire transferred from Fort Smith to the associate’s bank account, the associate withdrew approximately $11,900 of the funds in a cashier’s check made payable to FFH Construction, Files’ construction company, and the rest in cash. The associate then hand-delivered the check and the cash to Files who, in turn, deposited the check into his personal bank account.
Files also admitted to submitting a materially false loan application in November 2016 as part of a scheme to secure approximately $56,700 from First Western Bank.
According to the United States Sentencing Commission, a sentencing guideline is provided to the court based on numerous factors related to the conviction. A judge has the discretion to stay within the sentencing range, or deviate above or below the suggested penalties. Factors included in judicial discretion include:
• Nature of the crime(s);
• The defendants character;
• Need to protect the public from further crimes committed by the defendant; and
• Need to provide medical, vocational or other treatment.