LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – A former Arkansas state senator and state representative who had gone on to serve as a county judge was sentenced to federal prison Wednesday for his part in a bribery conspiracy.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s for the Eastern District of Arkansas said 68-year-old Henry “Hank” Wilkins IV of Pine Bluff was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison for his part in a scheme to steer $245,000 in state general improvement funds to a Missouri-based health care charity.
While the charity was not named in the Wednesday announcement, in March 2022 Missouri nonprofit Preferred Family Healthcare was ordered to pay over $8 million due to fraud and bribery conducted by former employees. Wilkins had pleaded guilty to charges related to the investigation.
In exchange for steering the money Wilkins conspired to accept over $95,000 in bribes, officials said. Wilkins admitted in court that the bribes were disguised as payments to the St. James United Methodist Church in Pine Bluff, where he was a pastor.
Court documents state that while Wilkins served in the state legislature from 2010 to 2014 he accepted a series of bribes that were funneled to a church account he controlled. In exchange, he filed shell bills, sponsored bills and voted in favor of specific legislation that steered the $245,000 to the group making the church donations.
Wilkins was sentenced to three years of supervised release after serving his prison term and must pay $123,000 in restitution. He is due to report to prison on March 7.
Wilkins’ co-conspirators, including former Arkansas Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson and two executives of the Missouri health care charity, have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.
After serving in the Arkansas legislature, Wilkins was elected as Jefferson County’s first Black county judge in 2017. He served until March 2018 when he resigned after admitting to taking bribes while serving in the legislature.
A month after resigning as county judge, Wilkins pleaded guilty to bribery in federal court.