News and Press Releases

32 WIC Participants Convicted For Selling Their WIC Vouchers For Cash

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 8, 2014

 

SAVANNAH, GA – 32 participants in the Georgia Women, Infant, and Children (“WIC”) Program pled guilty and were sentenced this week before United States Magistrate Judge James E. Graham for their roles in selling their WIC vouchers and the vouchers of their minor children for cash. 

According to evidence presented during the guilty plea and sentencing hearings held earlier this week in Statesboro, Georgia, the WIC program is a federally funded program that provides healthy foods for low-income pregnant and postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age 5.  Participants of the program receive food vouchers from local health clinics.  These vouchers are designed to provide nutritious food to help the mothers and children who are deemed nutritionally at risk.  In this case, the defendants sold their WIC vouchers and those of their minor children for cash to individuals working for Super Kids Variety, a phony grocery store formerly located on Victory Drive in Savannah.  Workers for Super Kids Variety would pay pennies on the dollar for WIC vouchers; the vouchers would then be submitted to the U. S. Department of Agriculture for the full amount as if the healthy foods had been provided to the WIC participants.  From July 2011 through December 2012, Super Kids Variety redeemed $2.6 million in WIC vouchers.  During that same time period, the 4 WIC-eligible Wal-Marts located in the Savannah area redeemed only $1.4 million.      

The 32 WIC participants were indicted in June of this year, following a 2-year investigation.  Also in June, 54 defendants, including those who worked for Super Kids Variety, were indicted for allegedly opening numerous phony grocery stores across Georgia and defrauding the WIC and Food Stamp programs of over $19 million.  This case is still pending.

United States Attorney Edward Tarver said, “Federal food programs are paid for by federal taxpayers and are designed to help those in need.  These defendants chose to help themselves and to literally take food from the mouths of children.  Buyers and sellers of WIC vouchers and food stamps beware; you will face federal criminal charges and pay the price for your crimes.”

Georgia Department of Public Health Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D. stated, “The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) supports this U. S. Attorney’s ongoing work to eliminate WIC fraud wherever it happens.  The progress prosecutors are making is a clear indication that, together, our partnership is working for Georgia.  The convictions handed down should serve as a clear warning to anyone looking to defraud Georgia’s WIC program that fraud doesn’t pay.  Criminals will be caught and prosecuted.”

Sentences for the 32 convicted WIC participants, all residents of Savannah, ranged from probation, to house arrest, to prison.  All of the defendants were ordered to perform community service and to pay the full amount of restitution for the WIC vouchers they unlawfully sold.  These 32 defendants alone were responsible for unlawfully selling over $100,000 in WIC vouchers.  The convicted WIC participants included:

Chiquita Armstead, 40
Yontalay Bennett, 28
Precious Bevins, 24
Shanika Blige, 23
Deanna Boles, 23
Candace Bostick, 23
Danitra Bostick, 26
Tia Bowers, 25
Tonya Clark, 41
Jocelyn Easterling, 49
Deonka Ellison, 24
Ebony Ellison, 27
Joanne Ferguson, 43
Tameshia Jackson, 24
Koneisha Jenkins, 26
Latisha Jones, 30
Jameise’ Mayberry, 23
Quinta Meggett-Mike, 37
Ebony Roberson, 26
Shakiela Roberts, 28
Jasmine Sammuel, 24
Deanna Scott, 25
Whitney Stokes, 25
Regina Styles, 22
Hope Taylor, 33
Ebonilaestei Tremble, 34
Linda Walker, 22
Tiera Walthour, 23
Alexis Washington, 26
Rhonda Washington, 32
Amber Wilson, 23
Ke’airra Young, 24

 

         The cases were investigated by the United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, the Georgia Department of Public Health, Office of Inspector General, the FBI, and other law enforcement agencies.  Assistant United States Attorney E. Gregory Gilluly and First Assistant United States Attorney James D. Durham prosecuted the cases on behalf of the United States. 

 

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