Identities of Unidentified Players in Neal Indictment Revealed

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Friday, Jan. 6, 2017 12:00 pm  

State Rep. Micah Neal and state Sen. Jon Woods.

Everybody's talking about the alphabet soup of unindicted people and entities described in state Rep. Micah Neal's plea agreement with federal prosecutors.

In an article originally set to come out in Whispers on Monday, Arkansas Business has determined the identities of several of them.

By now it's widely understood that "Senator A," who (according to Neal) led the wide-eyed rookie down the path of corruption, was his fellow Springdale Republican Jon Woods.

Woods is one of four state senators who fit the description included in Neal's plea agreement — that is, he served in the House from 2007-12 and then moved into the Senate in 2013. But only Woods is Senator A.

It's also fairly obvious that "Entity B," one of the two nonprofits from which Neal said he received illegal kickbacks, is Ecclesia Inc. The plea agreement describes Entity B as a nonprofit corporation operating a college in Springdale, and that can only be Ecclesia College.

A spreadsheet released Friday morning by Joe Willis, executive director of the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District in Harrison, shows distributions to Ecclesia College directed by Neal and Woods that match those described in Neal's plea agreement.

"Person B," described as "the president of Entity B and a friend of Senator A," is Oren Paris III. But you probably figured that out already too.

In a statement posted on the college's website, Paris wrote, "After reading the statements contained in Mr. Neal's plea agreement, I can unequivocally state that neither I nor Ecclesia College have been party to illegal activity. We have never been a party to any agreements to funnel money to any state legislator."

Arkansas Business hasn't learned the identity of "Person C," described as "the incorporator and sole member of a limited liability corporation incorporated in the State of Arkansas that purportedly provides consulting services" and "a friend of Senator A and Person B."

Person C — not even a hint as to gender — passed $18,000 in cash to Neal in exchange for the $50,000 directed to Entity B from the state General Improvement Fund.

A and A-1
Arkansas Business has, however, ascertained the identity of "Person A," who allegedly sent Neal a $20,000 kickback by way of Senator A.

He is Rusty Cranford, who, like Woods and Paris, has not been charged with any crime.



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