Arkansas treasurer Martha Shoffner arrested on extortion charges

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May 20, 2013

Arkansas

By Maresa Strano

Little Rock, Arkansas: On May 17, 2013, second term Arkansas Treasurer Martha Ann Shoffner (D) was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for "extortion under color of official right."[1] The arrest, which was made without a formal indictment, was the result of an investigation into Shoffner's handling of state investments in her capacity as treasurer, as well as allegations she had broken state election laws governing campaign contributions. The federal investigation revealed that she had accepted multiple $6,000 cash payments from a "broker who invested state money" in violation of the Hobbs Act.[2] An affidavit filed the Monday following her arrest has Shoffner admitting it had been wrong to accept the cash, that "was sometimes rolled up and hidden in a pie box," according to the filing[3] At the federal court hearing, held that Monday, Shoffner declined to enter a plea, and was released from Pulaski County Jail "on her own recognizance." However, her attorney indicated that Shoffner planned to plea not guilty at a later date, the Associated Press reported.[3] News of Shoffner's extortion charge and arrest led many state officials and party leaders, including Democratic attorney general Dustin McDaniel and state Republican Party Chairman Doyle Webb, to call for her immediate resignation. Shoffner informed reporters that she does not intend to step down.[1]

Federal authorities launched the criminal probe into Shoffner's office and campaign finances after legislative auditors uncovered that in 2011, the first year of her second term, Shoffner's office had cost the state nearly $60,000, among other suspicious statistics that pointed to possible misconduct. The audit determined that under her leadership, the office had "blocked the state from earning more than $400,000" by improperly handling the sale and investment of state bonds.[1] After the unflattering audit report, Shoffner told the press, "I know the buck stops with me and I'm going to have to take responsibility and I want to take responsibility...I just don't want this to happen again in the future."[4]

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