New Jersey man sentenced to prison for Arkansas corruption

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) – A federal judge has sentenced a New Jersey political consultant to prison for taking money from a Arkansas health care provider to pay for illegal lobbying.

U.S. District Judge Jan DuBois of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania sentenced Donald “D.A.” Jones to one year and one day in federal prison on Monday. Jones’ attorney, Alan Tauber, said the extra day is significant because inmates sentenced for more than a year qualify for early release based on good behavior.

Jones admitted to illicitly accepting nearly $1 million from Preferred Family Healthcare, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported. The nonprofit was one of Arkansas’ largest Medicaid recipients for behavioral health services with 47 sites in the state before the scandal broke in 2017.

Nonprofits such as Preferred Family are blocked from excessive lobbying. Jones delivered kickbacks totaling $264,000 of the nearly $1 million he collected from the nonprofit to Milton “Rusty” Cranford and his partner, former Democratic state Rep. Eddie Cooper, according to his guilty plea.

The money was disguised as training and consulting efforts to hide that the nonprofit was spending large amounts of money on political advocacy, which firms receiving charity-based tax breaks are not allowed to do.

Cranford, who served as the nonprofit’s executive, has faced several charges of his own. He pleaded guilty in June 2018 to one count of bribery. He was sentenced in November.

Jones also pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about paying election challenger to a U.S. congressman in 2012. His 2017 guilty plea cites direct contact with multiple unnamed congressional officials on behalf of Preferred Family, which included delivering campaign checks and requests for government funding.

Prosecutors filed a memorandum last week, saying that Jones should receive prison time, but deserves an unspecified reduced sentence because of his cooperation in the wide-ranging case that led to the convictions of several former Arkansas lawmakers.

Jones’ sentence requires him to give up $973,807.28, which is the amount he admitted to accepting from Preferred Family from 2011 through January 2017. He’ll face three years of supervised release after prison, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Philadelphia said.

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