Missouri health executives plead guilty in widespread fraud

September 29, 2022 GMT

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) — Two former executives of a Missouri health nonprofit have pleaded guilty to their roles in a corruption scheme that ensnared several Arkansas elected officials and lobbyists, federal prosecutors said.

Bontiea Bernedette Goss, 63, and her husband, Tommy Ray Goss, 66, pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to conspiracy charges arising from a multi-year federal investigation.

The couple were executives at Preferred Family Healthcare Inc., a Springfield-based nonprofit that provided services such as substance abuse treatments and counseling to people in Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma and Illinois.

Federal prosecutors said in a news release the Gosses and other co-conspirators paid bribes and kickbacks to Arkansas lawmakers to obtain favorable legislation and other official actions that helped the nonprofit.

As part of the plea agreement, the Gosses must forfeit up to $4.3 million as determined by the court at their sentencing. A sentencing date has not been set.

Bontiea Goss pleaded guilty to conspiracy to pay bribes and kickbacks to elected public officials in Arkansas.

Tom Goss pleaded guilty to being part of the conspiracy by embezzling funds from the nonprofit and paying bribes and kickbacks to Arkansas officials. He also pleaded guilty to preparing a false tax return.

Earlier this year, Preferred Family Healthcare agreed to pay more than $8 million in forfeiture and restitution to the federal government and the state of Arkansas under a non-prosecution agreement, which acknowledges the criminal conduct of its former officers and employees.

Other Preferred Family employees, Arkansas lobbyists and some Arkansas lawmakers, including former state Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, nephew of Gov. Asa Hutchinson, have pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme.