A former charity executive and lobbyist in Arkansas who is already jailed on bribery charges is now accused of trying to orchestrate the murder-for-hire to silence a co-defendant.
Milton "Rusty" Cranford, 56, is in a Missouri jail awaiting a May trial for an alleged $1 million bribery conspiracy, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Western District of Missouri. Cranford has pleaded not guilty to the bribery charges which he was arrested on in February.
On Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge David P. Rush ruled Cranford should remain jailed after prosecutors accused him of also being involved in a plot to kill a Donald Andrew Jones, a Philadelphia-based lobbyist. Rush sided with the prosecution and denied bail to Cranford. However, no charges have been filed in connection with the murder-for-hire allegations. Nathan Garrett, Cranford's lawyer has called the murder plot accusations “absurd,” according to The Associated Press. Cranford allegedly told one of his associates — an ex-convict who led a double life as an FBI informant — that he wanted him to put a hit on Jones to stop Jones from cooperating with police. The informant told police that Cranford told him in January that Jones "needs to go... he needs to be gone," while making a gun gesture with his hand, according to court records. Cranford can also can be heard in an audio clip calling Jones a “snitching motherf—er.”
Cranford was a lobbyist for Preferred Family Healthcare, Inc., a nonprofit corporation where he also served as an executive for charity operations. He was indicted by a federal jury in February after he was accused, along with co-conspirator Eddie Wayne Cooper, of receiving $264,000 in secret kickback payments from Jones, another co-conspirator.
Cooper is a former state representative of Arkansas and a regional director of Preferred Family Healthcare. Jones is a former political strategist for Rep. Robert Brady (D-Pa.) who also owned consulting firm D.A. Jones & Associates in Pennsylvania. Both Cooper and Jones pleaded guilty in separate cases regarding the scheme.
Cranford's charity allegedly paid Cooper hundreds of thousands of dollars in order to influence elected and appointed public officials to the financial benefit of the charity, according to the U.S. Attorney's Ofice. He's additionally accused of paying $100,000 in bribe money that was disguised as church donations. The alleged bribery scheme lasted almost six years, from 2011 until 2017, according to the U.S. Attorney.
In the audio recording of the conversations between Cranford and the FBI informant, Crawford allegedly said, "Yeah, have I paid a hell of a lot of politicians? I sure have over the years – a s–tload of money. But I’ve wrote them all checks."
[Photo: Greene County Jail]