OFFICE OF THE UNITED STATES ATTORNEY
WESTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI
MATT J. WHITWORTH
Contact Don Ledford, Public Affairs ● (816) 426-4220 ● 400 East Ninth Street, Room 5510 ● Kansas City, MO 64106
APRIL 1, 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DAYCARE OWNERS, OPERATORS SENTENCED
FOR NEARLY $123,000 FRAUD
FIRST STEPS OPERATED 10 DAYCARE CENTERS
IN SOUTHERN MISSOURI
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Matt J. Whitworth, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that four family members involved in the ownership and operation of 10 daycare centers in southern Missouri were sentenced in federal court today for participating in a conspiracy to submit false documentation to receive nearly $123,000 in reimbursements for federally funded programs.
Suzanne Smith, 57, and Stephen R. Smith, 57, who are married, and their daughters, Stephanie Smith, 31, and Christina Ann Thomas, 33, all of Bruner, Mo., were sentenced in separate hearings before U.S. District Judge Ortrie D. Smith today. The co-defendants were officers of First Steps Daycare, Inc., d/b/a First Steps of Southwest Missouri, Inc., which owned and operated 10 child daycare centers in Missouri, including Springfield, Nixa, Mt. Vernon, Monett, Aurora and Branson.
Suzanne Smith, the vice president of First Steps, was sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison without parole. Stephanie Smith, a director of First Steps, was sentenced to five years of probation, including four months at a half-way house and six months of home detention. Suzanne and Stephanie Smith must also pay $122,987 in restitution, for which they are jointly and severally liable.
Stephen Smith, the president of First Steps, was sentenced to five years of probation. Thomas, the secretary of First Steps, was sentenced to five years of probation, including six months of home detention. Stephen Smith and Thomas must also pay $12,216 in restitution, for which they are jointly and severally liable.
On Oct. 29, 2008, each of the co-defendants pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to commit federal program fraud. They each admitted that, from Nov. 1, 2003, to Oct. 31, 2004, they altered meal and daycare records and inflated meal counts, thereby claiming meals and childcare costs that were never provided by First Steps.
Children who attended First Steps daycare centers qualified for subsidies through the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services, which administered the Child Care Subsidy Program funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. They also qualified for subsidies through the Missouri Division of Health and Senior Services, which administered the Child and Adult Care Food Program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jane Pansing Brown. It was investigated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and the Missouri Department of Social Services; Division of Legal Services.
This news release, as well as additional information about the office of the United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, is available on-line at