College President Pleads Guilty Before Arkansas Fraud Trial - Higher Education
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College President Pleads Guilty Before Arkansas Fraud Trial

by Associated Press

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The president of a Christian college in Springdale pleaded guilty to a fraud charge Wednesday, admitting he took part in what prosecutors called a kickback scheme involving his school.

Oren Paris III had faced a trial Monday with former state Sen. Jon Woods and consultant Randell Shelton. Instead, the president of Ecclesia College pleaded guilty in federal court.

Prosecutors say Paris paid kickbacks to Woods and then-Rep. Micah Neal in return for $550,000 in state grants in 2013-14, using Shelton’s consulting firm as a go-between. Neal pleaded guilty last year but has not been sentenced.

Woods, a Republican, faces 15 fraud counts while Paris and Shelton were named in 14 counts. The Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported Paris pleaded guilty to a fraud charge Wednesday. All had been charged with conspiracy, and Woods also faces a money-laundering charge.

Paris plead guilty to transferring $50,000 of $200,000 in grant money from Woods and Neal to Shelton. Shelton sent $40,000 of the money to Woods as a kickback, according to Paris’ plea.

In addition to pleading guilty, Paris quit as the college president and resigned from the board of the school his father founded. Woods and Shelton have each pleaded not guilty.

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