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Two former Springfield-based executives of nonprofit Preferred Family Healthcare on Wednesday pleaded guilty in connection to a multimillion-dollar corruption investigation involving bribes paid to several Arkansas politicians. 

Bontiea Bernadette Goss, 63, and her husband, Tommy Ray Goss, 66, jointly agreed to forfeit $4.3 million to the federal government after they reached a plea agreement in federal court.

Bonitea Goss pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to pay bribes and kickbacks to elected public officials in Arkansas. Tommy Goss pleaded guilty to one count of embezzling funds from the Springfield charity to bribe and offer kickbacks to Arkansas officials, as well as one count of aiding and assisting in the false preparation of his 2013 federal income tax form, which underreported his annual income. 

The Gosses, along with former Preferred Family Healthcare CEO Mary Nolan, were fired in 2018 by PFH, a nonprofit with outposts in several Midwest states. The group’s stated goal is to connect people with mental and behavioral heath treatment specialists. Nolan, of Springfield, pleaded guilty in 2018 for her part in embezzling and misapplying funds of a charitable organization that received federal funds.

Three other PFH employees, one political consultant and three Arkansas politicians have also pleaded guilty in connection to the investigation. The three were Jeremy Hutchinson, a former state senator, Eddie Wayne Cooper, a former state representative and Henry “Hank” Wilkins IV, who was both a state senator and representative at different times during the course of the scheme. 

According to the Gosses’ plea agreements, the former executives bribed and offered kickbacks to the elected Arkansas officials to receive favorable legislative and official action, including the direction of money from the state’s General Improvement Fund to PFH. A federal investigation into the crimes was underway while PFH was merging with nonprofit Alternative Opportunities in the mid-2010s. In a 2019 statement to the Springfield Business Journal, PFH alleged that the Gosses, who were executives with Alternative Opportunities prior to the merger, concealed their knowledge of the investigation. 

In April, the charity agreed to forfeit $6.9 million to the federal government and pay more than $1.1 million to the State of Arkansas as part of a non-prosecution agreement

“Preferred Family Healthcare (PFH) thanks the Western District of Missouri U.S. Attorney’s Office and all government offices involved for their hard work in bringing this case to conclusion,” Naomi Scott, a PFH spokeswoman, said in a statement to the Daily Citizen. “Additionally PFH expresses its deep appreciation to the government for recognizing the quality care Preferred Family Healthcare provides for individuals and families in the communities we serve.”

The Gosses both face time in prison along with their multimillion-dollar fine. Bontiea Goss could face up to to five years in federal prison, and Tommy Goss could receive up to eight years.

Cory Matteson

Cory Matteson moved to Springfield in 2022 to join the team of Daily Citizen journalists and staff eager to launch a local news nonprofit. He returned to the Show-Me State nearly two decades after graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Prior to arriving in Springfield, he worked as a reporter at the Lincoln Journal Star and Casper Star-Tribune. More by Cory Matteson