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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Central District of Illinois

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Indictment Charges Chicago New Birth Christian Center Pastor and Others with Defrauding Summer Food Program

Springfield, Ill. – The grand jury today returned an indictment that charges the founding pastor of the New Birth Christian Center, Chicago, and four associates with embezzling approximately $450,000, more than one-half of the funding received to operate the 2010 Summer Food Service Program. Those charged are:  Robbie Wilkerson, 47, founding pastor; his wife, Tasha, 42, both of Oak Park, Ill., Anthony Hall, 53, a NBCC pastor, of Downers Grove, Ill., and Richard Shumate, 50, program operations manager for the 2010 program, and his wife Evelyn Shumate, 47, who worked as an assistant for the program, of Romeoville, Ill.

The defendants are charged with defrauding the program that provides nutritious meals to low-income children during the summer months when schools are not in session. In Illinois, the State Board of Education (ISBE) administers funding for the Summer Food Service Program which is provided by the Food and Nutrition Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

According to the indictment, the New Birth Christian Center was one of the largest recipients of Summer Program funds in Illinois. In 2010, Robbie Wilkerson, on behalf of NBCC, submitted a total operational budget of $446,440 to the ISBE representing that NBCC would administer the summer program at 34 sites in the Chicago area.  The defendants allegedly submitted approximately $714,000 in false and fraudulent claims to ISBE, more than $250,000 above the budgeted amount.  Claims submitted represented that approximately 267,000 meals were served to low-income children, when in fact, fewer than 100,000 meals were actually served, and as much as $450,000 was used for the defendants’ personal use.

The indictment alleges that Robbie and Tasha Wilkerson embezzled more than $100,000, including more than $60,000 in direct payments to himself and his wife, at the same time his wife was paid as an employee of Youth Outreach Services, Chicago, as a prevention coordinator.  In addition, more than $10,000 was given to relatives; $20,000 in cash and other withdrawals from NBCC’s bank account; $46,000 to purchase real estate in Chicago; and, $37,109 to purchase a residence in Memphis Tenn., for Robbie Wilkerson’s parents.

Hall allegedly embezzled approximately $50,000 for his and his spouse’s use.  Richard and Evelyn Shumate allegedly embezzled $98,000 for personal use, including approximately $28,695 to purchase a 2011 Hyundai Sonata.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, Special Agent-in-Charge Anthony V. Mohatt said, “The Summer Food Service Program was created to ensure that low-income children continue to receive nutritious meals when school is not in session. Those who are involved in fraud and abuse of SFSP and other USDA programs will be aggressively pursued by our office. The USDA Office of Inspector General will continue to dedicate resources in order to protect the integrity of the SFSP and other USDA programs and to pursue prosecution of those who commit fraud.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy A. Bass is prosecuting the case on behalf of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of Illinois.  The charges are the result of investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General.  The Illinois State Board of Education also assisted in the investigation.

Specifically, the defendants are charged as follows:  Robbie Wilkerson: wire fraud (two counts), theft of government funds (one count), money laundering (one count); Tasha Wilkerson: wire fraud (two counts), theft of government funds (one count); Anthony Hall: wire fraud (two counts), theft of government funds (one count); Richard and Evelyn Shumate: wire fraud (two counts), theft of government funds (one count.)

The U.S. Clerk of the Court will schedule dates for arraignment for the defendants in federal court in Springfield. 

If convicted, the statutory penalty for the offense of wire fraud is up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.  For theft of government funds, the statutory penalty is up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000.  The penalty for money laundering is up to 10 years in prison and fines of $250,000 or twice the value of money laundered.

The indictment seeks forfeiture of any property derived from proceeds of the violations and a money judgment in the amount of at least $400,000, the amount of the net proceeds allegedly obtained as a result of the offenses.

Members of the public are reminded that an indictment is merely an accusation; each defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

Updated September 2, 2015