Neal testified this morning that Shelton delivered $18,000 in $100 bills stuffed in two Arvest bank envelopes in December 2014 behind his family’s Springdale restaurant, Neal’s Cafe. The money was a kickback for directing $50,000 in Improvement Fund grants to Ecclesia, Neal said.And the ugly details of a couple of petty criminals — Neal, hard up for money, asked Woods how he was scoring cash when he saw the high-priced sports memorabilia at Woods' apartment in Little Rock:
“It’s like a slush fund. It’s what it is,” Neal said of the grants, adding they also helped win votes and garner media publicity.
Neal said he became involved in the kickbacks because he was having financial trouble and asked Woods how he made money. Neal said he asked Woods because he observed Woods had a nicely furnished Little Rock apartment with sports memorabilia such as a baseball bat signed by Pete Rose and a signed photograph of Michael Jordan.Also coming up today in Neal's testimony: former superlobbyist Rusty Cranford, who was indicted by a federal grand jury in Missouri in April for his alleged role in a bribery scheme that involved the same Medicaid-enriched nonprofit that was involved in the alleged shenanigans of Neal, Woods, and company. (Cranford has also been accused by the government in court filings of trying to hire someone to murder one of his alleged co-conspirators who is now cooperating with the government, though he has not been charged in that alleged plot.) There has been speculation that Cranford could testify against Arkansas legislators in corruption cases, and though he has not been charged in this case, he clearly appears to be implicated. Neal testified that Cranford put a $1,000 campaign donation from Cranford in his personal account and got tips from Woods on how to cover it up.
Woods said he had a deal worked out and came back to him a few days later with the kickback plan in which the two would receive 20 percent of any grant money steered to Ecclesia and another nonprofit, AmeriWorks, Neal said.