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Arkansas state treasurer resigns in face of federal charges

By Suzi Parker

LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas (Reuters) - Arkansas' state treasurer resigned on Tuesday, a day after federal authorities charged her with extortion stemming from accusations that she gave a broker state bond business in exchange for repeated cash payments.

Treasurer Martha Shoffner, a Democrat, faced numerous calls for her resignation following her arrest by federal agents over the weekend and a formal extortion charge on Monday, both from Democrats, including Governor Mike Beebe, and Republicans.

"I am proud to have been elected by and to have served the people of the state of Arkansas and regret that I can no longer perform the duties and responsibilities owed to the public," Shoffner wrote in a resignation letter to the governor.

Under state law, Beebe can name a replacement. Shoffner was elected to a second term as treasurer in 2010 and could not seek reelection to that post. Her attorney, Chuck Banks, has said she would plead not guilty.

Shoffner was accused of accepting multiple $6,000 payments, including a pie box stuffed with cash on Saturday from a bond broker working with the FBI, which secretly recorded the transaction, federal officials said.

The broker, who was given immunity from prosecution in exchange for cooperating with authorities, made at least six such payments to Shoffner at six month intervals, according to an affidavit attached to the federal criminal complaint against her.

Shoffner, 68, also received about $6,700 in campaign cash contributions that went unreported, the affidavit said.

She was held over the weekend and then released on her own recognizance on Monday after an initial court appearance.

Federal authorities first learned of the matter in January 2012 after a treasurer's office employee told the FBI that Shoffner was using one bond broker over others and was not following the office's historical practices, the affidavit said.

Shoffner faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted on the extortion charges.

(Editing by David Bailey, Cynthia Johnston and Bob Burgdorfer)

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