Ecclesia, Woods both hard up for money, prosecutors say | Arkansas Blog

Friday, April 13, 2018

Ecclesia, Woods both hard up for money, prosecutors say

Posted By on Fri, Apr 13, 2018 at 1:46 PM

click to enlarge KICKBACK KIDS: Neal, Paris and Woods. - ARKANSAS BUSINESS ILLUSTRATION.
  • Arkansas Business illustration.
  • KICKBACK KIDS: Neal, Paris and Woods.

Ecclesia College didn't get enough out of the kickback scheme prosecutors allege was designed to steer state money to the college, a former fundraiser testified today, according to Doug Thompson's reporting for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The Springdale college failed to raise enough money to cover expenses in January 2015, despite paying consultant Randell Shelton to secure donors for two years, a professional fundraiser testified today.

Shelton is accused of serving as the middleman in a kickback scheme, in which former state Rep. Micah Neal and former state Sen. Jon Woods directed hundreds of thousands of dollars in general improvement funds to Ecclesia. Neal and Orean Parris II, the former president of Ecclesia, have pleaded guilty to participating in the scheme. Shelton and Woods are on trial in federal court in Fayetteville.

From Thompson:

Paris had paid Shelton’s consulting company $267,000 out of college funds from 2013 to 2015 without notifying his college’s board until October 2015 when federal investigators questioned Paris, according to the indictment and testimony.

Paris reported to his board in October 2015 about the payments to the consulting business over the previous two years, the indictment says, and said Shelton’s efforts “resulted in strategic positioning with new large donors, which was anticipated to result in multiple millions of dollars over the next few years.”

But the campus was in bad shape in 2015, Seth Duell, the former professional fundraiser, testified today. And Ecclessia had received no donations greater than $15,000, Duell said.

Yesterday, prosecutors detailed $87,000 in loans Woods had taken out from Arvest Bank between 2012 and 2014, all guaranteed by others, Thompson reported.

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