Four Individuals Sentenced In Federal Program Fraud Case
United States Attorney Brendan V. Johnson announced that four individuals convicted of Conspiracy to Commit Theft Concerning Programs Receiving Federal Funds or Theft Concerning Programs Receiving Federal Funds have been sentenced by Chief Judge Jeffrey L. Viken, U.S. District Court.
The last defendant to be sentenced was Wayne Wilson Cortier, age 45, of Pine Ridge. He was sentenced on July 21, 2014, to 1 year of probation, and was ordered to make restitution of $27,620, $25,550 of which is joint and several with co-defendant Samone Milk.
Heather Marie Garcia, age 31, and Joe Marquios Garcia, age 35, both of Pine Ridge, were sentenced on June 30, 2014. Heather Garcia was sentenced to 5 years of probation. Joe Garcia was sentenced to 15 months in custody, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. Both were ordered to make restitution of $83,585, jointly and severally with Milk.
Samone Darla Milk, age 33, of Martin, was sentenced on May 6, 2014, to 14 months in custody, to be followed by 3 years of supervised release. She was ordered to make restitution of $109,135.
“I commend the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Investigations for their diligent work in this case. The theft of federal funds is serious in any case, but is even more significant in situations like this where it impacts people who rely on these programs for some of their basic needs,” said U.S. Attorney Johnson.
On October 8, 2013, a federal grand jury indicted Milk, Heather Garcia, Joe Garcia, and Cortier for Conspiracy to Commit Theft Concerning Programs Receiving Federal Funds. Additionally, Milk was also indicted for two counts of Theft Concerning Programs Receiving Federal Funds, and Heather Garcia, Joe Garcia, and Cortier were indicted on one count of that same charge. Milk pled guilty to the conspiracy charge on January 3, 2014. Cortier pled guilty to the theft charge on March 12, 2014. Heather Garcia pled guilty to the theft charge and Joe Garcia pled guilty to the conspiracy charge on March 13, 2014. The other charges for all four individuals were dismissed.
From May through December 2009, Milk and her co-conspirators formed an agreement to steal funds belonging to the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Milk was the executive secretary for the Tribe’s Energy/Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Heather Garcia was employed by the Tribe’s Accounts Payable Department as a technician. Joe Garcia and Cortier were contractors for the Tribe. Using their positions, Milk and Heather Garcia drafted fake invoices and quotes for contract work purportedly to be completed by Joe Garcia and Cortier. Milk facilitated the processing of these documents through the Energy/LIHEAP program. Checks were issued by the Tribe’s Treasurer’s Office to pay for the fraudulent invoices. Milk and her co-conspirators received the checks, cashed them, and divided the funds among themselves to use for their own purposes.
Gerald T. Roy, Special Agent in Charge, Health and Human Services/Office of Inspector General, Office of Investigations, Kansas City, MO, stated, “Individuals who choose to misappropriate HHS funds intended for those in dire need will continue to be pursued by the OIG and their law enforcement partners.”
This case was investigated by the HHS/OIG, Office of Investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ann M. Hoffman prosecuted the case.
Milk was ordered to turn herself in to the U.S. Marshals Service on or before May 27, 2014. Joe Garcia was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.