Banner Year in Arkansas: The Top 10 Business Stories of 2013

by Arkansas Business Staff  on Monday, Dec. 23, 2013 12:00 am  

Stuart’s debt-laden mansion in west Little Rock was set to be given to One Bank in lieu of foreclosure by year’s end.

Federal charges were filed against Matthew Sweet, One Bank’s former controller, for allegedly helping himself to some $76,000 of the bank’s money, and against Alberto Solaroli, a Canadian citizen living in Florida, who allegedly misrepresented his net worth when he took out a $1.5 million line of credit from One Bank.

Little Rock developer Steve Clary was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to misusing almost $1.6 million of a $4.5 million loan that he received from Bank of America Leasing Capital in 2008.

Still pending:

• Thirty-five felony counts related to alleged bank fraud dating to 2009-10 by Steve Standridge, who had owned one of the state's largest insurance agencies, and

• An 11-count indictment against John Stacks, CEO of HomeBank of Arkansas and owner of Mountain Pure LLC, for what federal prosecutors say was a fraudulent loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration in 2009.

9. Treasurer Shoffner Charged

The hounds of justice were on the scent of political corruption when Arkansas Business broke the news on Jan. 7 that state Treasurer Martha Shoffner was the subject of a criminal probe.

In the weeks that followed, private allegations against Shoffner exploded onto the public scene and chased the constitutional caretaker of the state’s $3.3 billion investment portfolio from office.

Shoffner was arrested at her Newport home on May 18 when the FBI alleged she accepted a $6,000 cash bribe. The feds reported that the damning exchange that day, involving a bond trader whose identity was protected, was captured on tape. Sources identified the trader as Steele Stephens of St. Bernard Financial Services Inc. of Russellville. The bond trader in the sting received immunity from prosecution.

At the heart of the controversy is the relationship between Shoffner, Stephens and his father, Steve, who also worked at St. Bernard Financial and earlier at Apple Tree Investments Inc. of Little Rock.

The tiny firms handled nearly twice as much bond business for the state Treasurer’s Office as the closest competitor while employing Steele and Steve Stephens, who grew up in Newport and knew Shoffner.

The Division of Legislative Audit analyzed bond trades conducted for the state treasurer during a 45-month period. Shoffner’s office bought and sold bonds totaling $1.69 billion through the father-son team between July 1, 2008, and March 31, 2012.



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