Springfield, Mo -- (2/12/2018) A former Arkansas state representative pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to his role in a conspiracy to embezzle more than $4 million from a Springfield-based health care charity.
Eddie Wayne Cooper, 51, of Melbourne, Ark., waived his right to a grand jury and pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David P. Rush to a federal information that charges him with one count of conspiracy to embezzle from the nonprofit organization.
By pleading guilty today, Cooper admitted that he conspired with several executives of Preferred Family Healthcare, Inc., a non-profit charity headquartered in Springfield, to use the charity’s funds for unlawful political contributions, for excessive, unreported lobbying and to financially benefit themselves. Cooper received a total of at least $387,501 from a lobbying firm and at least $63,000 in kickbacks as a result of his participation in the conspiracy. Under the terms of today’s plea agreement, Cooper must forfeit his gain from the conspiracy to the government.
Court documents cite, but do not identify by name, five additional co-conspirators who are not charged in the fraud scheme. Three were executives at the charity. They include the founder and chief financial officer of the charity, the charity’s chief operating officer and the charity’s chief executive officer.
According to the plea agreement, conspirators engaged in multiple schemes to unlawfully use the charity’s funds to make political contributions, for excessive and unreported lobbying and political advocacy, and to unjustly enrich themselves. For example, conspirators caused personal contributions to elected officials and their political campaigns to be reimbursed by the charity. Such indirect contributions are prohibited by law just as if the payments had been made by the charity directly.