Health firm’s ex-CEO pleads guilty in Arkansas bribery case

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A top executive at a Missouri mental health company has pleaded guilty to helping bribe Arkansas lawmakers to influence state legislation and boost company profits.

Marilyn Nolan, former CEO of Preferred Family Healthcare Inc., pleaded guilty last week to conspiracy in federal court in Springfield, Missouri, according to court records.

She admitted to stealing millions with other executives at Preferred Family, which she said violated federal laws that prohibit nonprofits from making campaign contributions or lobbying, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Nolan, who alone received more than $4.1 million, is the highest-ranking executive to plead guilty in the political corruption investigation so far. Nolan’s guilty plea names former Arkansas lobbyist Milton Russell Cranford, who has pleaded guilty to bribing convicted former state Sen. Jon Woods, former Rep. Henry Wilkins IV and an unidentified legislator. Woods and Wilkins were also named in Nolan’s plea.

She admitted to conspiring from 2008 until June 2017 with Cranford, former chief clinical officer Keith Noble, and two other company executives to embezzle, steal, obtain by fraud and knowingly misapply property belonging to the nonprofit.

The nonprofit used for-profit companies owned by the same top executives to buy, sell and rent the company’s assets and generate millions in illegal profits, according to Noble’s guilty plea in September.

Nolan faces up to five years in prison and fines. She agreed to pay $4.1 million in restitution.

Preferred Family was the largest Medicaid-funded outpatient mental health provider in Arkansas until it was suspended from receiving Medicaid payments earlier this year. Hot Springs-based Quapaw House Inc. has since purchased Preferred Family’s network of Arkansas clinics.


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette,