Milton R. "Rusty" Cranford of Rogers, owner of two lobbying firms in Arkansas and a former executive of a mental health services provider known as Dayspring and Alternative Opportunities, has been indicted in Missouri for his role in a $1 million bribery conspiracy.
The indictment against Cranford, 56, was issued by a federal grand jury in Springfield on Tuesday and unsealed on Wednesday, after Cranford was arrested.
He will make a first appearance in federal court on Thursday, according to a press release from the office of Timothy A. Garrison, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri.
The indictment alleges that Cranford and co-conspirator Eddie Wayne Cooper, a former Arkansas state representative from Melbourne, received $264,000 in secret kickback payments from co-conspirator Donald Andrew "D.A." Jones of Willingboro, New Jersey.
Jones and Cooper have already entered guilty pleas. In their plea agreements, Cranford was referred to as "Person #4." He is also entangled in a federal investigation of official corruption in Arkansas. In a plea agreement in which former state Rep. Micah Neal admitted receiving bribes and in a related indictment against former state Rep. Jon Woods, Cranford is referred to as Person A, who allegedly paid kickbacks to both Neal and Woods.
Cranford was both a lobbyist and an employee of Preferred Family Healthcare Inc. of Springfield, and for Alternative Opportunities Inc. before it was acquired by PFH in 2015. Cranford was the top executive for the PFH/AO mental health treatement operations in Arkansas. He also owned two lobbying firms, The Cranford Coalition and The Capital Hill Coalition.
Cranford allegedly recommended that PFH/AO's chief financial officer, chief operating officer and chief executive officer to enter into a contractual arrangement with Jones for lobbying and advocacy services. Cranford then demanded kickbacks for himself and Cooper, according to the press release.
The indictment alleges that Jones collected a total of $973,807 to provide advocacy services for the nonprofit, including the kind of direct political activity that is illegal for nonprofits to engage in. Jones allegedly paid a total of $264,000 to Cranford and Cooper, mostly to Cranford or one of this lobbying firms.
In addition to a charge of conspiracy, Cranford is charged with eight counts of receiving a bribe. Federal prosecutors also seek forfeiture of all proceeds of the alleged crimes.