Housing Woes Plagued Cash-Strapped Martha Shoffner

by George Waldon  on Monday, Jun. 3, 2013 12:00 am  

Unnamed in the official criminal complaint, mulitple sources point to Steve Stephens as being a part of the bondsmen team who did the most business with former Arkansas Treasurer Martha Shoffner.

The Brokers

Shoffner’s May 18 arrest and subsequent criminal complaint forced her resignation three days later and exposed her financial relationship with Steve Stephens and his son, Steele, to deeper scrutiny.

Neither is named in the complaint, but details contained in the criminal case clearly point to the massive shift of bond business to St. Bernard Financial Services Inc. of Russellville, where the men worked.

That shift in business coincided with an escalation in financial gifts delivered to Shoffner as outlined in the criminal complaint.

The father-son team bought and sold nearly $1.7 billion in bonds for the Treasurer’s Office during a 45-month period. That July 1, 2008, to March 31, 2012, total was nearly twice that of any other firm doing business with Shoffner.

The timeline of the criminal complaint focuses on late 2009 to May 2013 when Steve and Steele Stephens worked at St. Bernard.

Signs point to Steele Stephens, 51, as “Confidential Human Source 1” in the criminal complaint against Shoffner, although some suggest it may be his father, Steve, 83, who traveled in similar circles with Shoffner, 68, over the years and, like her, grew up in Newport. Stephens first made his mark as a local media celebrity on KTHV-TV, hosting “Steve’s Show,” a dance show that predated “American Bandstand,” and as a weatherman.

Sources familiar with the father-son dealings with the Treasurer’s Office said the elder Stephens had much more personal contact with Shoffner than his son.

One Treasurer’s Office insider quoted Steele Stephens as saying: “Dad deals with Martha. I deal with Autumn” — a reference to Autumn Sanson, the treasurer’s chief investment officer.

According to one insider, Steve Stephens would visit with Shoffner about a bond deal in advance of his son contacting Sanson with the proposed trade. If Sanson questioned the deal, Shoffner would pooh-pooh her concerns and instruct her to do the deal.

Even when Sanson raised questions and advised against some of the trades, Shoffner would overrule her.

Between July 22, 2009, and Oct. 5, 2011, bond trades for the state treasurer through St. Bernard generated fees totaling more than $2.3 million thanks to Steve and Steele Stephens.



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