LITTLE ROCK — A former candidate in the Republican primary for Faulkner County sheriff pleaded guilty Monday to a federal criminal charge stemming from an attempt to make it appear that his political opponent had fathered a black child out of wedlock.

Harold Allen Smith, 47, of Greenbrier pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Little Rock to one count of transferring a false birth certificate through the U.S. mail, according to Christopher Thyer, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas. Smith’s sentencing date will be set later.

Thyer said in a news release that in 2012, while Smith was seeking the Republican nomination for Faulkner County sheriff, he conspired with another person to create a false birth certificate showing that another Republican candidate, Andy Shock, was the father of an illegitimate black child.

Smith and Shock are both white.

On March 28, 2012, Smith and his accomplice drove to Hooks, Texas, where Smith mailed about 12 envelopes containing a note and the fake birth certificate to Faulkner County residents who were expected to vote in the primary.

In spite of Smith’s efforts, Shock won the primary and went on to win the general election to become sheriff.

Smith faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

The investigation was conducted by U.S. Postal Inspection Service.