Former State. Sen. Jake Files, R-Fort Smith, was sentenced to 18 months in federal prison on Monday for wire fraud and money laundering in connection with money routed to him from the state General Improvement Fund and an unrelated charge of bank fraud.
Files, 46, also was ordered to pay $83,904 in restitution and will serve three years of probation after he’s released from prison, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas Duane "Dak" Kees.
“Between August 2016 and December 2016, while serving in the Arkansas State Senate, Files used his senate office to obtain government money known as General Improvement Funds … through fraudulent means and for personal gain,” the news release said. “Specifically, Files authorized and directed the Western Arkansas Economic Development District, which was responsible for administering the GIF in Files’s legislative district, to award a total of $46,500 in GIF money to the City of Fort Smith.”
To get the GIF money, Files prepared and submitted three fraudulent bids to the Western Arkansas Economic Development District, the news release said.
Files then told an associate to open a bank account under her name to hide his role and that he would benefit from GIF award. After the first installment of approximately $26,900 was wire transferred from the city of Fort Smith to the associate’s bank account, the associate withdrew approximately $11,900 in a cashier’s check made payable to FFH Construction, Files’ construction company, and the rest of the money in cash. “The associate then hand-delivered the check and the cash to Files who, in turn, deposited the check into his personal bank account,” the news release said.
Files also admitted to submitting a false loan application in November 2016 as part of a scheme to secure about $56,700 from First Western Bank, the news release said.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Monday he was saddened by Files' case, according to The Associated Press.
"It is always a sad day when a public official violates the public trust," Hutchinson said. "I have known Jake most of his life, and when he was charged, he resigned and accepted responsibility. ... It is up to all of us in public service to do right and restore public confidence."
U.S. District Chief Judge P. K. Holmes III sentenced Files and told him to turn himself to the U.S. Marshals Service on Aug. 2 to begin serving his sentence.