A former deputy director of the Arkansas Department of Human Services (ADHS), a multi-billion dollar state agency, pleaded guilty today for providing official assistance in exchange for bribes from the owner of two mental health companies.
Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and First Assistant United States Attorney Patrick C. Harris of the Eastern District of Arkansas made the announcement.
Steven B. Jones, 49, of Marion, Arkansas, pleaded guilty to a two-count information charging him with conspiracy and bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for April 2, 2015, before U.S. District Judge Billy Roy Wilson of the Eastern District of Arkansas.
According to his plea agreement, Jones served as deputy director of ADHS from approximately April 2007 until July 2013. While serving in that capacity, Jones solicited and accepted multiple cash payments and other things of value from the owner of two businesses that provided inpatient and outpatient mental health services to juveniles. This individual provided the cash payments and other things of value to Jones through the use of two intermediaries, a local pastor and a former county probation officer and city councilman.
As part of his plea, Jones admitted that in return for the bribes, he provided official assistance, including providing internal ADHS information about the individual’s businesses. Jones further admitted that he and other members of the conspiracy concealed their dealings by, among other things, holding meetings at restaurants in Memphis, Tennessee, or rural Arkansas, where they would not be easily recognized; funneling the cash payments through the pastor’s church; providing the bribe payments in cash so that the transactions would not be easily traceable; and speaking in code during telephone conversations.
The case was investigated by the FBI’s Little Rock Field Office, and is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Edward P. Sullivan of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patricia S. Harris and Angela S. Jegley of the Eastern District of Arkansas.
The Department of Human Services takes seriously the trust the public places in this agency. So we were extremely disappointed to learn today that a former senior official illegally shared sensitive information. DHS fully cooperated with the FBI during the investigation, but the agency was unaware of the specific allegations until today. We will continue to hold our employees to the highest ethical standards and will review the details of this situation to determine if we need to take additional action.