Former Arkansas legislator Jeremy Hutchinson sentenced to almost 4 years in federal prison

He’d pleaded guilty in multi-state fraud and bribery scheme

By: - February 3, 2023 3:30 pm
U.S. District Court building, Little Rock

The Richard Sheppard Arnold United States Courthouse in Little Rock.

Jeremy Hutchinson, the former state senator who pleaded guilty nearly four years ago to federal bribery and tax fraud charges, was sentenced Friday to nearly four years in prison.

Hutchinson, 48, pleaded guilty in June 2019 to crimes in three jurisdictions — Eastern Arkansas, Western Arkansas and Western Missouri — resulting from a sprawling federal investigation into public corruption.

Jeremy Hutchinson
Jeremy Hutchinson

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker, who accepted Hutchinson’s guilty plea in the Eastern District of Arkansas, imposed the sentence Friday: 18 months for bribery and 28 months for tax fraud. In addition, Baker sentenced Hutchinson to at least three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay restitution of $224,497 to the state of Arkansas and $131,038 to the IRS.

The former state senator from Little Rock, son of former congressman Tim Hutchinson and nephew of former Gov. Asa Hutchinson is to report to prison on March 6.

Court documents show that, from 2010 through 2017, Hutchinson stole and  misappropriated over $10,000 in campaign contributions for his own personal use, then filed false federal income tax returns from 2011 to 2014 to conceal his conduct, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice. Specifically, he falsified his 2011 tax returns, including failing to report $20,000-per-month-payments he received from one law firm and other sources of income he knowingly and intentionally concealed from his taxes, the DOJ release said.

Hutchinson also was hired as outside counsel by Dr. Benjamin Burris, an orthodontist who owned and operated orthodontic clinics throughout Arkansas. In exchange for payments and legal work, Hutchinson pushed legislation beneficial to Burris.

Hutchinson was provided legal work to conceal the corrupt nature of his arrangement, the DOJ release said.

Hutchinson pleaded guilty on June 25, 2019, in the Eastern District of Arkansas to filing a false tax return; pleaded guilty on June 25, 2019, to an information filed in the Western District of Arkansas to conspiracy to commit federal program bribery; and pleaded guilty in the Western District of Missouri on July 8, 2019, to conspiracy to commit federal program bribery.

Hutchinson is still awaiting sentencing in the Western District of Missouri for his role in a separate multimillion-dollar public corruption scheme that involved embezzlement, bribes, and illegal campaign contributions for elected public officials.

From the Department of Justice news release:

According to court documents, Hutchinson accepted bribes in the form of monthly legal retainers and other things of value from employees and executives of Preferred Family Healthcare Inc. (formerly known as Alternative Opportunities Inc.), a Springfield, Missouri-based health care charity. In exchange for the bribes, Hutchinson provided favorable legislative and official action for the charity.

In 2022, Preferred Family Healthcare agreed to pay more than $8 million in forfeiture and restitution to the federal government and the state of Arkansas under the terms of a non-prosecution agreement, in which the charity admitted the criminal conduct of its former officers and employees.

Several former executives from the charity, former members of the Arkansas state legislature, and others have pleaded guilty in federal court as part of the long-running, multi-jurisdiction investigation, including the following:

  • Former Chief Operating Officer Bontiea Bernedette Goss, previously of Springfield, Missouri, pleaded guilty in September 2022 to her role in a conspiracy to commit bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds.
  • Former Chief Financial Officer Tommy “Tom” Ray Goss, husband of Bontiea Goss and also previously of Springfield, Missouri, pleaded guilty in September 2022 to participating in the conspiracy by embezzling funds from the charity, as well as by paying bribes and kickbacks to elected public officials in Arkansas. Tom Goss also pleaded guilty to one count of aiding and assisting in the preparation and presentation of a false tax return.
  • Former Chief Executive Officer Marilyn Luann Nolan of Springfield, Missouri, pleaded guilty in November 2018 to her role in a conspiracy to embezzle and misapply the funds of a charitable organization that received federal funds.
  • Former Director of Operations and Executive Vice President Robin Raveendran of Little Rock pleaded guilty in June 2019 to conspiracy to commit bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds.
  • Former executive and head of clinical operations Keith Fraser Noble, of Rogersville, Missouri, pleaded guilty in September 2019 to concealment of a known felony.
  • Former employee and head of operations and lobbying in Arkansas, Milton Russell Cranford, aka Rusty, of Rogers, Arkansas, was sentenced to seven years in federal prison after pleading guilty to one count of federal program bribery.
  • Political consultant Donald Andrew Jones, aka D.A. Jones, of Willingboro, New Jersey, pleaded guilty in December 2017 to his role in a conspiracy from April 2011 to January 2017 to steal from an organization that receives federal funds.
  • Former Arkansas state Rep. Eddie Wayne Cooper of Melbourne pleaded guilty in February 2018 to conspiracy to embezzle more than $4 million from Preferred Family Healthcare.
  • Former Arkansas state Sen. and State Rep. Henry “Hank” Wilkins IV was sentenced in January 2023 for his role in a conspiracy to commit federal program bribery and devising a scheme and artifice to defraud and deprive the citizens of the state of Arkansas of their right to honest services.

Hutchinson most recently spent more than two weeks in the Pulaski County jail on a contempt of court citation for failure to pay more than half a million dollars in child support. Circuit Judge Cara Connors ordered him released on Jan. 17 after he paid $10,500, or about a month’s child support.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Sonny Albarado
Sonny Albarado

In his 50-year career, Sonny Albarado has been an investigations editor, a business editor, a city editor, an environmental reporter and a government reporter at newspapers in Arkansas, Tennessee and Louisiana. He retired from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in 2020 after serving as projects editor for 12 ½ years and returned to professional journalism in 2022 to lead the Arkansas Advocate. He is a former national president of the Society of Professional Journalists and a current member of the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.