That was quite a story the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette published last week, the one that described state Sen. Jake Files pocketing cash derived from the state General Improvement Fund.
It’s a convoluted story, and one the Fort Smith Republican — who has not been charged with any crime — seems tired of.
This is an Opinion
Yes, Files admitted months ago that he submitted fake bids on behalf of two companies with which he had no connection. He also acknowledged submitting the winning low bid on behalf of an unlicensed subcontractor — actually his employee — and forged her name on an IRS document. It was all part of an effort to build a city softball complex that was never finished.
But last week’s report contained a lot of news. In a sworn affidavit in support of a search warrant, the FBI offered probable cause that Files had committed both wire fraud and money laundering. And a big part of that evidence was an interview with the subcontractor/employee, Dianna Gonzalez.
Files made sure Gonzalez submitted the low bid. As a state senator in control of a piece of the GIF money, he had the money sent to the city of Fort Smith. The city then transferred almost $27,000 into an account Gonzalez set up on Files’ instructions.
He also told her what to do with that taxpayer money: a cashier’s check to Files’ construction company for nearly $12,000 and $14,000 in cash. And that’s where we find the words that should drive home the fact that GIF, already responsible for the conviction of former state Rep. Micah Neal and the indictment of former state Sen. John Woods, was ripe for abuse:
Gonzalez “stated she watched as Files counted the cash out for payment to employees, which amounted to approximately $4,805,” the Democrat-Gazette quoted from the affidavit. “Gonzalez stated Files gave her $1,978.42 ‘in reimbursement’ and a $1,500 ‘Christmas bonus.’ Gonzalez said she saw Files place the remainder of cash and the cashier’s check in his pocket.”