by Gwen Moritz
Posted 2/27/2014 10:37 am
Updated 2 weeks ago
Former State Treasurer Martha Shoffner pleaded not guilty Thursday morning to 10 counts of mail fraud, charges that were added earlier this month to a pending indictment for bribery and extortion.
In a perfunctory hearing before U.S. Magistrate Beth Deere, Shoffner and her defense attorney, Chuck Banks, waived a reading of the new charges and entered a plea of not guilty to all of the pending counts.
A trial on the first 14 counts of the indictment — six of extortion, one of attempted extortion and seven of receipt of a bribe — is scheduled to start at 9:15 a.m. on Monday before U.S. District Judge Leon Holmes.
Because the mail fraud charges were added less than a month before the scheduled trial, Holmes had previously agreed to try them later. Deere announced that those charges were set for trial before Holmes on March 31 — a date that had not previously appeared on in the case docket and which seemed to take Banks by surprise. He said he would file a motion to delay the second trial.
The first set of charges, to be tried starting Monday, allege that Shoffner received some $36,000 in payoffs from a bond broker in exchange for steering state business his way. While the broker was given immunity by federal prosecutors and has not been officially identified, Arkansas Business has confirmed that he is Steele Stephens, formerly of St. Bernard Financial Services Inc. of Russellville.
The mail fraud charges added this month allege that Shoffner used $9,800 in funds from her treasurer re-election campaign for personal expenses, including clothing, cosmetics and other personal expenses.