Conway’s Gilbert Baker, a former Arkansas senator, was indicted on federal charges of one count conspiracy, one counts bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds and seven counts of wire fraud on Friday.
The indictment — unsealed on Friday in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Arkansas — revealed Baker was in cahoots with Michael A. Maggio, a circuit judge for the 20th Judicial District and at least one another person from around May 2013 to June 2014.
“[The three] did knowingly and unlawfully conspire, confederate, and agree together and with each other: to corruptly give, offer, and agree to give, anything of value to any person, intending to influence and reward Maggio [...] in connection with a business, transaction, or series of transactions of $5,000 or more of the State of Arkansas,” the document reads in part.
It continues, stating that Baker and others devised a schedule to defraud, trick and “deprive,” Arkansas residents of their “right to honest services of Maggio.”
“It was a purpose of the conspiracy for [Baker] and Maggio to enrich themselves, LRM Consulting and Company A [a nursing home and rehabilitation center in Faulkner County] by providing campaign contributions to Maggio from Individual A [owner of Company A],” the document states.
In addition, their purpose was to conspire to hide, conceal and cover up the nature and scope of Baker’s dealings with Maggio and the center’s owner including the campaign contributions and its source and nature, according to the indictment.
Chris Givens, public information officer with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Arkansas, told the Log Cabin Democrat in an email on Friday that they are not issuing any comments on the case itself but he did answer a few questions.
When asked if Baker had been arrested, Givens said he wouldn’t be, but a “summons has been issued directing him to report for plea and arraignment,” before U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia S. Harris at 10 a.m. on Jan. 24.
When asked what sentence Baker could possibly receive, Givens said Baker was charged with the three different crimes and all counts carry a maximum of a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
“Count one is the conspiracy to bribe count, and has a maximum sentence of 5 years prison,” he said. “Count 2 is bribery, and has a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Counts 3-9 are honest services wire fraud, and each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.”
Maggio was convicted of bribery and sentenced to 10 years in federal prison in 2016.
Court documents state:During his tenure as circuit judge, Maggio presided over criminal, civil, domestic relations and probate cases filed in Faulkner, Van Buren and Search counties. Maggio announced his candidacy for the Arkansas Court of Appeals — election set for May 2014 — in June 2013 but withdrew his candidacy in March 2014. At that time, Baker was a lobbyist and a political fundraiser; he assisted Maggio during his campaign. Baker was also the president, secretary and treasurer of LRM Consulting — the consulting and lobbying firm mentioned in the indictment above — around January 2013 to around April 2014 and the executive assistant to the president of a local university, a role including lobbying and fundraising as well.
According to the material, at the time of Maggio’s campaign to be elected, both understood:Judicial candidates in Arkansas were prohibited from “soliciting or accepting” contributions for current campaigns more than 180 days before the election, could not accept contributions for the nonpartisan judicial election until Nov. 21, 2013 and were prohibited from personally soliciting campaign contributions or personally accepting them — they could establish campaign committee to receive them. To reduced potential disqualification and to avoid the appearance of impropriety, candidates in Arkansas should “as much as possible,” not know who contributed to their campaign and no contribution may be made or accepted by a candidate unless it was made in the name by “which the person providing the funds for the contribution is identified for legal purpose,” i.e. “straw contributions,” were prohibited.
In Feb. 2012, Maggio presided over a civil lawsuit filed in Faulkner County.
The plaintiff — estate of a decedent, or one who has died — filed a complaint against the nursing home and rehab center alleging that the decedent had been neglected and mistreated by the center, the owner and others, and sought compensatory damages and other forms of relief.
A jury ultimately awarded $5.2 million in the plaintiff’s favor on May 15, 2013 against the company but its lawyers filed a motion the following June requesting “a new trial or remittitur [ruling by a judge lowering the amount of damages granted by a jury in a civil case], seeking, among other things, to reduce the amount of damages awarded.”
A hearing was held on the matter by Maggio around July 8, 2013; on or around July 10, the judge signed an order granting the center’s request to lower the among from the set $5.2 million to $1 million.
According to the indictment, Baker provided fundraising “assistance,” to a nonprofit trade association that supported tort reform and the owner of the center, provided “substantial financial assistance” to the same company through Baker.
Count one, conspiracy, and how the plan was carried out:
Baker asked for contributions from the center’s owner on behalf of Maggio.The owner provided those contributions to Maggio through Baker as a middleman. In return, Maggio, in his official capacity as a judge, intervened on the owner’s behalf during the civil lawsuit in 2012-2013 against the rehab center. Baker assisted by “Individual B,” an Arkansas lawyer, hid, concealed and covered up the source of those contributions by using political action committees. Baker assisted Individual B, C — a lobbyist and consultant — and D — a lobbyist and consultant who also served as the treasurer and principal of the aforementioned nonprofit trade association — to hid, cover up and conceal contribution sources through straw donors and false invoices.
“On or about May 16, 2013, at approximately 10:33 a.m., BAKER sent a text message to Maggio, stating, ‘I have a LR lunch today with the nursing home folks,” the indictment reads. “‘The topic will be judicial races. You are at the top of the list.’”
The investigation also revealed that Maggio and Baker conversed many times after the jury’s verdict in May 2013 by text and phone.
“On or about June 29, 2013, at approximately 8:15 a.m., BAKER sent Maggio a text message stating, ‘“ Well. Your first 50k is on the way,’ which Maggio understood to include support from [the owner], and when asked, ‘When can we take the money?’ Maggio replied, ‘THANK YOU!!!!!! Unfortunately not. Till late November,’” the document reads.
In addition, the investigation made mention of Baker’s communications to Maggio during the lawsuit on behalf of the owner, in regard to a favorable decision by Maggio and conversations reminding Maggio about the owner’s financial support to the campaign.
In July 2013, Baker and Individual B discussed and agreed via phone call on the PAC names — Citizens for Information Technology PAC, Conservative Persons In PAC, D. Bruce Hawkins 2 PAC, Go Good Government PAC, Judicial Reform PAC, Red Arkansas PAC, Taxpayers for Change PAC and Thomas Group In PAC — Baker requested, which would be created at $500 by Individual B, who would also serve as the registered agent and administrator of each.
During this time, Baker also requested by fax $3,000 be provided to 10 PACs — eight of which Baker had created — from Individual A, the owner, sent via Federal Express to Baker’s home, received at 10:31 a.m. “on or about” July 9, 2013 by Baker.
In addition, the package included two $25,000 checks for the aforementioned nonprofit, a $100,000 contribution to the University of Central Arkansas, where Baker worked, and $48,000 to another campaign, Individual E, who documents state was a judicial-office candidate in the May 20, 2014 nonpartisan judicial election; around July 19, an envelope was sent to Individual B’s law office, which contained eight of the PAC checks.
Individual B also set up bank accounts and post office boxes for the PACs.
Other amounts of $8,000 to Individual B’s law firm, $8,000 to Individual C’s consulting firm and $8,500 to Individual D’s consulting firm were also sent disguised as bonuses by Individual D, treasurer of the nonprofit.
“Sometime between in or about November 2013 and January 2014, Maggio approached BAKER and asked BAKER about the rest of the $50,000 BAKER had promised Maggio,” the document states in regards to the $50,000 in campaign funds Baker was responsible for compiling.
During this overall time frame, the investigation shows that tens of thousands of dollars were pushed around or contributed between these firms, the PACs, the individuals mentioned and Baker to benefit Maggio.
By March 2014, Individual A’s contribution funds disguised as PACs came to light.
In June 2014, Maggio provided a sworn statement to the Arkansas Ethics Commission which was found to contain false statements designed to conceal the purposes, manner and means of the conspiracy.
Count two, bribery charges:
The indictment revealed that in 2013, the State of Arkansas, 20th Judicial District, received more than $10,000 from the U.S. government under federal programs involving grants, subsidies, loans, guarantees, insurance and other forms of assistance.
During this time, Baker, it continues, “knowingly and corruptly,” gave, offered and agreed to give to Maggio, intended to influence and reward the judge in his capacity as an agent of the state government in “connection with business, transaction or series of transactions,” of $5,000 or more.
Counts three through nine, Honest Services Wire Fraud:Around May 2013 to around June 2014, and Baker, Maggio and at least one other showed intent to “defraud, voluntarily and intentionally devised and intended to devise a scheme and artifice to defraud and deprive,” the citizens of Arkansas and the Eastern District of their right to Maggio’s honest services as a judge, through the bribery that took place. Baker and others, “for the purpose of executing” the bribery and conspiracy scheme, to defraud and deprive, “transmitted and caused to be transmitted by means of wire communications in interstate commerce,” nearly $10,000 from the fake PAC accounts.