An Arkansas state representative plead guilty Wednesday to conspiring to allowing $600,000 in state government funds to two non-profit entities in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars in kickback payments, federal officials said.
Micah Neal, 42, of Springdale, Arkansas, will be sentenced at a later date for one count of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud.
As part of his guilty plea, Neal admitted that, between January 2013 and January 2015, while serving in the Arkansas House of Representatives, he conspired with an Arkansas state senator to use their official positions to give government money known as General Improvement Funds (GIF) to a pair of non-profit entities in exchange for bribes.
Specifically, Neal and the senator authorized and directed the Northwest Arkansas Economic Development District, which was responsible for disbursing the GIF, to award a total of $600,000 in GIF money to the two non-profit entities. Of the $600,000, Neal personally authorized and directed a total of $175,000 to the entities. In return for his official actions, Neal received approximately $38,000 in bribes from officials at those non-profit entities.
According to the Washington Post, Neal’s lawyer admits what he did was wrong.
“He’s acknowledging what he did was wrong,” lawyer Shane Wilkinson of Bentonville said. “I suspect that as these things unfold that Micah will be perceived on the low end of the totem pole of culpability.”
According to prosecutors, Neal conspired with others, including “Senator A” — whom they described as a House member from 2007-2012, a senator since 2013 and the sponsor of a 2013 bill granting eight development districts up to $2 million each in state funds.
Neal, whose family owns a Springdale restaurant, won the Republican Party’s nomination for Washington County judge last year but dropped his bid abruptly four months later. Neal cited business- and family-related reasons for ending his campaign, according to the Washington Post.