SMALL HOUSE, BIG BUSINESS: St. Bernard Financial Services, based at this house in Russellville, got a half-billion in state bond business thanks to broker Steele Stephens friendship with Martha Shoffner.
, the broker enriched by business with Arkansas Treasurer Martha Shoffner
, took the stand today as the government's key witness. He said he once gave her $6,000 at the Capitol because he thought it would be good for business.
Stephens said he felt sorry
for Shoffner because of the recent death of her mother and other setbacks. He'd eventually give her $36,000 in six $6,000 payments, enough to cover $1,000 a month for an apartment. The last delivery, in a pie box taken to her home in Newport, was done under the watchful eyes and ears of FBI agents sitting outside. She was arrested after the delivery and now faces extortion charges for taking money in return for favoring Stephens with an unusual share of state bond investments. She also faces further charges of spending campaign money on personal expenses.
Stephens' business — while working for a small investment firm in Russellville, St. Bernard Financial — drew suspicion here
in October 2011 long before a legislative audit report and the subsequent federal investigation. He resigned from the firm after Shoffner was arrested. Robert Keenan, has said he was unaware of illicit activities in Stephens' work. Shoffner resigned her state post days after her arrest.