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Forsyth Woman Sentenced for Fraudulently Obtaining Government Grants

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 7, 2014

GAINESVILLE, Ga. - Jessica Regas has been sentenced for falsifying government grant applications and fraudulently obtaining $600,000 in government anti-drug grant funds. 

 “Regas stole over $600,000 in grant funds intended to fight youth substance abuse,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates.  “Rather than steering young people away from drug abuse, she lined her own pocket.  Not only did the federal government lose grant funds, but those intended to benefit were cheated as well.”

“Jessica Regas was greedy and she manipulated the grant process to steal federal funds needed for substance abuse prevention,” said Derrick L. Jackson, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General in Atlanta.  “Grant fraud is a priority for the Office of Inspector General and we will continue to work closely with our law enforcement partners to identify individuals who steal crucial grant funds and victimize taxpayers.”

“Ms. Regas used deceit and fraud, to obtain money that she was not entitled and used the money for her own personal benefit”, stated Veronica F. Hyman-Pillot, Special Agent in Charge, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation.  “This sentence is a message to others that there are consequences for submitting fraudulent information to an agency of the United States Government.”

“Our team did an outstanding job coordinating local and federal agencies to bring swift justice.  We will remain vigilant identifying, investigating and prosecuting crimes of this nature,” said Forsyth County Sheriff Duane K. Piper.

According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges and other information presented in court: Regas and her husband operated a private business named the “Georgia Martial Arts Foundation,” in Cumming, Ga.  Beginning in 2004, Regas, acting on behalf of the Georgia Martial Arts Foundation, applied for a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).  The grant required grantees to coordinate a coalition of members from at least 12 community sectors, including, but not limited to law enforcement agencies, media, religious and fraternal organizations, and schools.  The grantee was required to, among other things, run coalition meetings that focused on substance abuse among youth, maintain minutes from those meetings, and certify that the grantee had obtained non-federal funding. 

The purpose of the grant is to reduce substance abuse among youth; help community coalitions strengthen collaboration; enhance inter-governmental communication and coordination; enable communities to conduct data-driven research-based prevention planning; and provide communities with technical assistance, guidance, and financial support.  Georgia Martial Arts Foundation received such a grant on an annual basis from 2004 through 2013.  Georgia Martial Arts Foundation was designated as the grantee in charge of a coalition named the “Drug Free Forsyth Coalition.” 

Regas submitted numerous annual continuation applications to SAMHSA with materially false statements, including that the “Drug Free Forsyth Coalition” had representatives from the 12 required sectors of the community, had substantial involvement from volunteer leader or members, and could be sustained as an ongoing concern with non-federal financial support.  In fact, the “Drug Free Forsyth Coalition” never had representatives from the 12 required sectors of the community, rarely held meetings, and lacked the required non-federal matching funds.

Beginning in 2011, the “Georgia Martial Arts Foundation” ceased to exist.  Despite the fact that the “Georgia Martial Arts Foundation” no longer existed, the Defendant continued to submit continuation applications to SAMHSA using the “Georgia Martial Arts Foundation” as the name of the grantee.  These renewal applications continued to have materially false statements.  Based upon these renewal applications, SAMHSA continued to send $125,000 a year to Regas. 

Regas, 62, of Cumming, Ga., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge William C. O’Kelley to one year, nine months in federal prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $600,000 in restitution.    

This case was investigated by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Office of Inspector General, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation, and Forsyth County Sheriff's Office.

Assistant United States Attorney Thomas J. Krepp prosecuted the case.

For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016.  The Internet address for the home page for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia Gainesville Division is http://www.justice.gov/usao/gan/.

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