State Treasurer Martha Shoffner (D) said she will plead not guilty to a charge of “Extortion Under Color of Official Right under the Hobbs Act.” Shoffner, 68, has been in Pulaski County jail since Saturday night. On Monday, she was informed of the charges against her by U.S. District Court.
According to the charges, Shoffner accepted a $6,000 bribe payment from an informant working with the FBI. The FBI is said to have been investigating her for over a year.
The confidential informant showed up at her house with a $6,000 payment on Saturday. The cash was rolled up and placed into a pie box. During the meeting the informant gave the money to Shoffner, then left. The FBI then arrested Shoffner.
Shoffner claims that the payments were not related to a bribe, and therefor not subject to the Hobbs act which she was charged, and were not an abuse of office.
Shoffner instead claimed that the payment, and all previous payments, were for her famous meat pies made from Arkansas residents who failed to pay their taxes.
“I started making the meat pies several years ago, and they became quite popular,” says Shoffner in a statement before the District Court. “They have become so popular that I have been able to be aggressive with pricing. This particular individual had been a frequent customer and dropped me off his payment along with the pie box for recycling. It is really quite innocent.”
Shoffner went on to say that she has been working since 2007 with a local barber in her hometown of Newport to create the meat pies. The approach of using individuals with delinquent taxes in the meat pies has been a large part of the success of her office. She cites that since the policy she has been able to reduce delinquencies by over 150%.
Upon hearing her rebuttal of the charges Shoffner was released on her own recognizance until a trial on the Hobbs charges could be held. “We feel that once the evidence is presented Martha will be freed from all charges and we can put this behind us and get her back to serving the citizens of Arkansas,” Shoffner’s attorney stated.