|Oren Paris III|
Indictment reveals details of alleged Ecclesia kickback scheme:
"The director of Ecclesia’s Office of Communications, Angie Snyder (Oren's sister), did not return a request for additional comment or interview Friday. But talk of Paris’s involvement in a kickback scheme has been circulating for months, particularly after former Republican State Representative Micah Neal pleaded guilty in January to taking $38,000 in bribes for steering money from the state’s General Improvement Fund to two nonprofit organizations based in Fayetteville and Springdale. Ecclesia College is located in Springdale.
Paris issued a statement Jan. 5 after Neal’s guilty plea stating that no one associated with Ecclesia College had provided money to legislators.
“We have never been a party to any agreements to funnel money to any state Legislature,” the statement said. “At the end of the day, I am secure in the knowledge that there has been no wrongdoing either on my part or the school’s part, and any rumors, innuendo or any future news reports that say otherwise are simply untruthful.”
But the indictment clearly names Paris. It notes that he received more than $300,000 in compensation from the nonprofit corporation that operates the college located in Springdale between June 1, 2012, and May 31, 2016, and that his family members and their spouses have received more than $1 million in compensation from it during that same time period. The kickback scheme’s purpose was for Paris to enrich himself, his family and the college by paying bribes to Woods and Neal through Shelton in exchange for the legislators securing money for the college, according to the indictment.
The scheme was designed for Woods and Neal to enrich themselves by soliciting and accepting bribes in exchange for using their official positions as legislators to steer money, the indictment says. It says that Shelton was intended to make money by keeping a portion of bribe funds before passing them on and that an unnamed businessman was intended to make money by paying bribes to legislators in exchange for money being directed to other organizations.
The indictment outlines a long involvement between the college president, Paris, and the state senator, Woods. It details plans by Paris in January 2013 to call Woods to talk about maximizing the college’s participation in the Arkansas General Improvement Fund. That fund receives money whenever the state runs a budget surplus. The money is then typically routed to economic development districts across the state to be used on local projects.
In April 2013 Paris sent a text message to Woods with talking points intended to convince lawmakers to support Ecclesia.
“Good selling point to conservative legislators is that [the college] produces graduates that are conservative voters,” the text message said, according to the indictment. “All state and secular colleges produce vast majority liberal voters.”
Woods replied that he agreed, the indictment said."
| Angie Paris Snyder is Oren Paris III's sister|
and runs the online program with her husband,
both unqualified for the work.
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