Former Arkansas treasurer sentenced to 30 months for bribery

29 Aug 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Ex-Arkansas Treasurer Martha Shoffner sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison for bribery, extortion.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Former Arkansas Treasurer Martha Shoffner was sentenced to 2 ½ years in prison on Friday following her conviction last year on federal bribery and extortion charges. A federal jury found Shoffner guilty last year of six counts of extortion, one count of attempted extortion and seven counts of receipt of bribery in connection with a series of cash payments she received from broker Steele Stephens between 2010 and 2013. Prosecutors said Shoffner steered a disproportionate amount of the state’s investment business to Stephens in exchange for the bribes, which consisted of six payments of $6,000 of Stephens’ money and one payment of $6,000 provided by the FBI after Stephens began cooperating with investigators. Her attorney, Chuck Banks, had argued that the 71-year-old Shoffner should receive a sentence of 12 to 18 months, with half in-home detention, because of her age.

Shoffner was arrested in May 2013 after an FBI raid at her Newport home, where agents said they found $6,000 that was delivered in a pie box by the broker, who was cooperating with authorities. He also ordered her to pay $31,980 in restitution to the state, an amount reflecting the bribes she received minus money that FBI agents seized when they arrested her. Holmes said he took into account Shoffner’s age, her lack of a criminal past and her unlikeliness to re-offend but also considered the damage she did to the reputation and integrity of the state treasurer’s office. Shoffner didn’t talk to reporters except to reiterate in response to a question that “yes, of course” she apologized to the people of Arkansas for what she’d done.

Judge Leon Holmes said Shoffner had netted little — he ordered restitution of $31,000 she’d kept in bribes —- but as a public official should do prison time. Holmes held there were multiple payments for multiple actions and the $36,000, paid in six installments, didn’t amount to a single payment, which also means a potential enhancement of the sentence. He said Stephens benefited from the bribes to the tune of $900,000 the amount by which his $1.7 million in commissions exceeded the next biggest bond dealer who did business with Shoffner. The judge said the federal sentencing guidelines indicated 151 to 180 months in prison and a $250,000 fine, plus $31,000 in restitution (the bribes minus the amount seized by FBI). Banks asked the court to show mercy on Shoffner, saying she “made a terrible, terrible error in judgment” and characterizing her as “gullible” and “clueless.” He said that she was inclined to accept the bribes from Stephens in large part because she was in a bad financial situation, having underestimated the cost of commuting on a regular basis between Newport and Little Rock.

He presented the court with a picture of her dog, Fred, and said he was moved by the fact that after Shoffner was first arrested, she asked Banks to call her sister to check on Fred. She said there were “not enough words to express the remorse I feel,” apologizing to the public for her “wrong, illegal and unethical behavior” and to her deceased parents for bringing shame to her family’s names.

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