- Associated Press - Thursday, December 3, 2015

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - The owner of two Arkansas mental health companies that received more than $90 million in Medicaid funds was accused in an indictment released Thursday of bribing a former top official in the state’s Human Services Department.

A federal grand jury indicted Ted Suhl of Warm Springs on six bribery counts. The indictment accuses Suhl, 50, of paying thousands of dollars to former DHS Deputy Director Steven Jones to help his companies, which provide mental health services for juveniles, and to provide internal information about the agency to him.

Jones, a former state legislator, pleaded guilty last year to federal bribery and conspiracy charges, admitting to receiving more than $10,000 in cash and other items of value from Suhl. Former West Memphis City Council member Phillip Carter, who met with Suhl as an intermediary between him and Jones, also pleaded guilty to a role in the case. The two are awaiting sentencing.

Attorneys for Suhl, who has previously denied any wrongdoing, did not immediately return a call for comment Thursday. His plea and arraignment is scheduled for Dec. 15.

DHS suspended Suhl’s companies from the Medicaid program after determining that Suhl was the person Jones accused of paying the bribes. A federal judge ruled late last year that the state could cut off Medicaid payments to the two businesses.

DHS spokeswoman Amy Webb said the companies are still suspended from Medicaid and the state will move to cancel them completely if he’s convicted.

According to the indictment, Suhl paid Jones by issuing checks to the pastor of Carter’s church. Carter and the pastor - named as “person A” in the indictment and identified of the pastor of Carter’s church - then deposited and cashed the checks in order to pay Jones, prosecutors allege.

Suhl and Jones used Carter as an intermediary to relay messages to each other and schedule meetings, according to the indictment. Prosecutors said Carter and Suhl often avoided using Jones’ name when they talked on the phone, instead referring to him as “buddy” or “friend.” In turn, Jones and Carter often avoided mentioning Suhl by name and instead called him “our friend” when they talked.

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Follow Andrew DeMillo on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ademillo

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