Photo courtesy of AP Graphics
SAVANNAH, Ga. -- A former Atlanta Public School teacher has been sentenced by United States District Judge William T. Moore to 14 years in prison in connection to a $8-million fraud scheme involving the Food Stamp and WIC programs.
A jury convicted Rashelle Reed and two others after a four-day trial. All three were convicted of conspiring to defraud the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Women, Infant and Children Program.
Sixteen defendants were charged with the scheme, 13 pled guilty.
A Department of Justice press release says, the scheme involved 13 storefronts throughout Georgia including Savannah, Augusta, Atlanta, Decatur, Macon and Columbus. The "Baby Spot" store in Decatur, Ga., was owned and operated by Reed.
The "pretend" grocery stores, were used to buy more than $8 million in food stamp benefits and WIC vouchers for cash, the release said.
Reed is to also serve three years of supervised release and pay $8,254,239.46 in restitution.
United States Attorney Edward J. Tarver said, "SNAP and WIC are part of the hunger safety net put in place to provide assistance to eligible, low income individuals and families who qualify. These defendants scammed federal food programs, swindled American taxpayers and literally took food out of the mouths of children.
"The work of dedicated and hardworking federal agents prevented this scam from spreading further into neighboring states and costing taxpayers many more millions of dollars. This case is an example of the work that federal agents and prosecutors are doing to end fraud in federal programs."
This case is the largest prosecution of its kind in the state of Georgia at this time.
Karen Citizen-Wilcox, Special Agent-in-Charge of the United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General said, "This OIG investigation shows how greed attracts individuals at all levels. Ms. Reed was college educated and employed as a teacher.
"However, she found it necessary to take part in a multimillion dollar fraud scheme that offended the sensibilities of the American taxpayer and deprived needy individuals of nutrition. The jury conviction and 14 year sentence handed down by U.S. District Court Judge Moore serves as an extreme eye opener for individuals who think that such crimes only get a slap on the hand. OIG remains ever committed to such investigations and to working with the DOJ to prosecute individuals consumed by such greed."
First Coast News