Two more central Arkansas residents have been charged in a scheme to steal federal money earmarked for feeding poor children, U.S. Attorney Chris Thyer announced Thursday after the unsealing of an 89-count indictment handed up Nov. 4.
Anthony Waits, 37, and Dorothy Harper, 50, both of England, are being held on federal charges of conspiracy to fraudulently obtain U.S. Department of Agriculture program funds. Harper also is charged with 16 counts of wire fraud.
Their names were added to the first of several indictments that have been handed up by a federal grand jury since December as part of an ongoing investigation into feeding program fraud.
The first indictment originally charged three people -- Waits' wife, Gladys King, 34; Tonique Hatton, 37, of North Little Rock who, like King, was an employee of the state Department of Human Services, which administers the program; and Jacqueline Mills, 39, of Helena-West Helena, a program sponsor. That indictment was superseded in April to add Kattie L. Jordan, 50, of Dermott, a feeding program sponsor who has since pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud and awaits sentencing.
People who want to participate in the Child and Adult Care Feeding Program as sponsors submit an application to the Department of Human Services for approval. Once approved, they can provide meals to underprivileged children and be reimbursed based on the number of eligible meals they serve.
According to Thyer, Harper operated as a sponsor for a feeding program through an organization called Kingdom Land Youth Outreach Ministries, and operated feeding sites in England, Keo, Allport, Tucker, Toltec, Coy and Altheimer.
She is accused of making unauthorized cash payments to Waits. Waits' wife would then approve Harper's applications, knowing inflated claims would be submitted, which helped Harper avoid fraud detection by the human services department, Thyer said.
Harper's fraud exceeded $1.3 million, Thyer said, noting that she falsely represented her average daily attendance and the number of meals provided.
The latest indictment also alleges that Waits recruited additional sponsors who also submitted inflated claims. Thyer said those sponsors gave Waits a percentage of the federal money they received in exchange for his wife, who is also known as Gladys Waits, approving the inflated claims.
Jordan has admitted to stealing $3.6 million in federal funds, while Mills is accused of stealing $2.5 million at this point, though the investigation is ongoing, Thyer said.
Other people who have been charged in separate indictments alleging they defrauded the feeding program include Reuben Nims, 51, of Little Rock, who operated as a sponsor through an organization called Bless for Success; Michael Lee, 24, of Little Rock, a sponsor through an organization called Our Children of Tomorrow; Christopher Laneal Emmanuel Nichols, 24, of North Little Rock, a sponsor through an organization called A Vision for Success; and Maria Carmen Nelson, 49, a former security officer at the Federal Building in Little Rock whom Lee approved as a sponsor through an organization called Securing Our Future.
Nims is accused of stealing more than $182,000, while Lee is accused of stealing $333,000, Nichols is accused of stealing $333,136; and Nelson is accused of stealing more than $575,000. Thyer has said the thefts occurred in 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy are each punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Thyer asks that anyone who is aware of any fraudulent activity involving feeding programs email the information to USAARE.FeedingProgramFraud@usdoj.gov.
Metro on 11/13/2015
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