LITTLE ROCK — Former state Treasurer Martha Shoffner, whose guilty plea to a single federal corruption charge was rejected by a federal judge less than a week ago, was named in a 14-count extortion and bribery indictment Wednesday.
A federal grand jury returned the indictment in which Shoffner faces six counts of extortion, one count of attempted extortion and seven counts of receipt of bribery.
Shoffner had been under investigation for more than a year because of suspect bond transactions in her office when federal authorities took her into custody at her Newport home May 18 after an informant delivered a $6,000 cash payment in a pie box. She resigned May 21, a day after appearing before a federal magistrate.
Judge Leon Holmes rejected the plea when Shoffner refused to say she took cash payments from a broker in exchange for shifting state bond business to him.
U.S. Attorney Chris Thyer told reporters after the judge’s ruling that his office would proceed with an indictment against Shoffner that likely would include additional charges. Thyer announced the indictment Wednesday.
The former state treasurer faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each extortion count and up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each bribery count.
Shoffner’s lawyer, Chuck Banks of Little Rock, said Wedneday he had not read the indictment but was not surprised by its scope given federal prosecutors’ reaction to the court hearing Friday.
"They were upset," Banks said. "While they certainly can do it, the breadth of it and the (increase) of counts and the stacking of counts is obviously difficult to defend."
Banks did not say whether Shoffner would consider a plea agreement, but he said she has an "absolute constitutional right, if she chooses to exercise it, to make the U.S. attorney’s office prove what they accuse — each and every element of each and every crime they accuse, in accordance with the law, not in accordance with public opinion."
Shoffner, 68, is accused of accepting more than $36,000 in cash payments from a bond broker in exchange for steering a large portion of the state’s investment business.
In court Friday, she admitted to accepting payments but refused to say the money was in return for acts she made as treasurer. She said she received money to pay her rent.
In December, the Legislative Joint Audit Committee requested a criminal investigation into the way Shoffner’s office sold bonds, including her decision to sell bonds before they matured, resulting in an overall economic loss to the state of $434,249.
The bond transactions with St. Bernard Financial Services of Russellville were made by one broker, Steele Stephens, who resigned from the firm following Shoffner’s arrest.
Shoffner claimed during an audit committee meeting she never received any personal financial benefits from St. Bernard Financial or any other firm with which her office had dealings.