Former US Charity CEO Pleads Guilty to Political Corruption

The former CEO of a United States healthcare charity admitted to her role in misusing millions of dollars of charity money to bribe public officials and buy political influence in Missouri and Arkansas, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.

Seal of the United States Department of Justice.svgPhoto: U.S. GovernmentMarilyn Luann Nolan, former head of Preferred Family Healthcare, pleaded guilty on Friday to embezzling US$6 million of charity money to bribe public officials and lobbyists between 2008 and 2017.

Preferred Family Healthcare is a Missouri-based non-profit corporation that provides a number of medical services, including mental and behavioural health counseling and substance abuse treatment. A majority of its funding comes from appropriated federal funds, prohibiting them from being used for political purposes.

In exchange for favorable legislative action, Nolan and her conspirators used these federally provided charity funds to bribe state lawmakers, including Arkansas state senators Jonathan Earl Woods and Henry Wilkins.  

Along with cash, Nolan and her aids traded items of value, such as premium tickets to sporting events, hotel accommodations, or use of the charity’s luxury real estate, for beneficial legislation. The cash bribes were then disguised as contract payments for things such as consulting, training, and legal services.

Nolan used the charity to provide in-kind contributions to candidates running for seats in the Missouri and Arkansas state legislatures by organizing fundraisers with organization resources. In many cases, Nolan directed employees to pay for expenses such as catering, liquor, and decorations with charity-issued credit cards.

Additionally, Nolan funneled charity cash to a number of political lobbyists, including Milton Russell Cranford and Donald Andrew Jones.  According to her plea agreement, the lobbyists were then regularly reimbursed with invoices falsely labeled as “training” or “consulting.”

Cranford and Jones have both plead guilty to federal crimes in related cases.

Under the terms of her plea agreement, Nolan must pay $4,131,111 in restitution to the government. Her sentencing hearing is yet to be scheduled.