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Thursday, February 6, 2014

Mail fraud charges added against former Arkansas Treausurer Martha Shoffner

Posted By on Thu, Feb 6, 2014 at 6:11 PM

click to enlarge SHOFFNER: New charges.
  • SHOFFNER: New charges.
The federal government stacked 10 new mail fraud charges today on former Arkansas Treasurer Martha Shoffner, these for allegedly transferring campaign contributions to pay for personal charges on her credit card, including cosmetics and clothing.

The news release:

Christopher R. Thyer, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas; and David T. Resch, Special Agent in Charge of the Little Rock Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that new charges were handed down by a federal grand jury charging Martha Anne Shoffner, age 69, of Newport with ten counts of mail fraud.

The Second Superseding Indictment alleges that Shoffner used $9,800 of campaign funds from her re-election campaign for Treasurer of the State of Arkansas for personal expenses. According to the Indictment, campaign checks were mailed for payments to a personal Wells Fargo credit card from November 5, 2010 through October 9, 2011. Individual checks ranged from $200 to $5,000. The charges to the credit card included clothing, cosmetics and other personal expenses.

The new counts of mail fraud against Shoffner are in addition to the previous six counts of extortion under color of official right, one count of attempted extortion and seven counts of receipt of a bribe by an agent of a state government receiving federal funds. Trial is set for March 3, 2014, before United States District Judge J. Leon Holmes.

The charges stem from an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s ArkTrust Public Corruption Task Force. The ArkTrust Public Corruption Task Force is comprised of FBI Agents, and Task Force Officers from the Arkansas State Police Department, Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office, and the Little Rock Police Department. If you think you see public corruption contact the public corruption hotline at (501)221-8200.

Mail fraud carries a possible sentence of not more than 20 years’ imprisonment and/or not more than a $250,000 fine with not more than three years of supervised release.

An indictment contains only allegations. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Two observations:

1) When you back out of a plea deal with the government, they sometimes lower new booms on you.

2) The news has to be unsettling to other Arkansas politicians who, evidence suggests, have used campaign money for personal expenses, including clothing. To varying degrees, both former Sen. Paul Bookout and former Lt. Gov. Mark Darr both were found to have charged personal expenses to credit cards paid with campaign money before ethics investigations ended in sanctions and agreements to pay back money.

Shoffner is awaiting trial next month on earlier charges that she took money from a bond dealer in exchange for steering state bond business his way. It's uncertain how the new charge might affect the handling of that case.

Lawyers are battling there as defense lawyer Chuck Banks presses the government for release of more information and a bill of particulars. One recent motion, pertaining to a tape recording, is interesting. It's on the jump and also a portion of a motion by Banks for specific acts alleged by the government. That motion names Steele Stephens, as we've reported before, as the confidential informant who delivered  money  to Shoffner and on whose cooperation the case was made.

Comes now the Defendant, Martha Ann Shoffner, by and through her undersigned attorney, Charles A. Banks, and, for her Amendment to Motion to Compel, states:

1. On February 5, 2014, counsel for Defendant received investigation information which, among other things, includes a disc of a recorded conversation between an employee of the investment section of the Arkansas State Treasurer’s Office (identified for this pleading as John Doe) and a broker dealer heretofore identified as Confidential Human Source 1 (“CHS1”). This disc is approximately one hour in length and contains unintelligible portions. Upon request for a written transcription, the United States Attorney’s Office has today given notice that it has no plans to transcribe this recording.

2. Listening to the understandable portions of this conversation, it readily appears that exculpatory information is contained in it and will be important to the Defendant’s preparation of her defense. The recording clearly suggests that John Doe and CHS1 discussed Defendant’s lack of understanding or knowledge of bond transactions and this counsel believes it will be extremely material to guilt or punishment.
3. Defendant’s counsel is unable to properly transcribe the contents of the disc word for word and line for line so that it can be of fair and reasonable use to the Defendant. Defendant respectfully asks that the Court order the United States Attorney’s Office transcribe this conversation in full and in a reasonably prompt time so as to be of proper use by Defendant. This timeliness becomes more important in having just been told that the United States Attorney’s Office has superseded the Indictment and added additional accusations of mail fraud, for which the Defendant will not seek a continuance of the scheduled trial date.

4. Undersigned counsel requests that this pleading be incorporated word for word with the original Motion to Compel filed at Docket No. 24.

WHEREFORE, the Defendant, Martha Ann Shoffner, respectfully requests that the Court consider this amendment to her Motion to Compel, grant her request for transcription, and for any and all other relief to which the Defendant may be entitled.

From motion to compel the government to cite specific acts by Shoffner:

1. The Defendant, Martha Shoffner, respectfully asks this Court to direct and order the government to file a Bill of Particulars relating to the Indictment which was filed in this case on June 5, 2013. This motion is not made nor intended to be used as a discovery device. A separate motion for discovery of exculpatory evidence will be filed forthwith. This motion is made in the interest of fact-specific knowledge of the accusations being made in this case rather than generalized pleading in the indictment. It is consistent with the important and fundamental Due Process rights of this Defendant.

2. Counts One through Seven of the Superseding Indictment allege that the Defendant “knowing that the payments were made in return for official acts, engaged in a course of conduct whereby defendant Martha Ann Shoffner, with the broker’s consent, obtained $6,000.00 payments not due defendant.”
3. Petitioner respectfully asks the Government for the following Particulars regarding the alleged violation of The Hobbs Act, found at Title 18 U.S.C. § 1951.

a). Defense Counsel requests to know the particulars regarding the specific “official acts” and “course of conduct” the Government alleges were agreed upon between the Defendant and Steele Stephens and/or any other broker, in return for payments of $6,000.00. Simply put, what “official acts” were promised and what is the alleged quid pro quo to support the charge of extortion?

b). Defense Counsel requests to know with particularity what payments were obtained by the State Treasurer of Arkansas, to which she was not entitled, and made in return for “official acts.”

c). Defense Counsel requests to know with particularity the fact-specific actual authority to undertake “official acts” that was demonstrated or implied by the Defendant in exchange for the payment of money.

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