Operators of Atlanta Stores Sentenced for Stealing Millions of Dollars in an Extensive Food Stamp Fraud Scheme
ATLANTA – Local grocery store operators Rodney Byrd and Reginald Byrd have been sentenced for conspiring to commit food stamp fraud. The defendants utilized a series of stores in the Atlanta area to unlawfully purchase over $5.7 million in vouchers of the Georgia Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program and debit cards of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”).
“These defendants brazenly stole millions of dollars from government programs designed to help the poor and needy,” said U. S. Attorney John Horn. “Their sentences show that people who line their pockets with money from government programs will go to prison.”
“The prosecution of these individuals sends a strong message that we will not tolerate fraudulent abuse of our federally funded Food and Nutrition Service programs. Rodney Byrd and his brother, Reginald Byrd, created and managed businesses for the sole purpose of profiting financially from the benefits of families that needed assistance from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as well as the Georgia Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. We will continue to maintain our aggressive approach to investigate those that are trying to fraudulently take advantage of such programs. We would like to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Internal Revenue Service, the Georgia Department of Public Health as well as the Georgia Department of Human Services, Office of Inspector General for assisting us with this investigation,” said Karen Citizen-Wilcox, Special Agent-in-Charge, USDA-OIG-Investigations.
“Americans expect and deserve a government that ensures their tax dollars are managed efficiently and with integrity”, said Veronica Hyman-Pillot, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation. “The SNAP and WIC programs cannot succeed without strong public confidence, so good stewardship of tax dollars is one of our most important objectives. Today’s sentencing of Rodney and Reginald Byrd is critical to preserving benefits for the vast majority of participants who play by the rules and need help to ensure their families have access to adequate and nutritious food.”
According to U.S. Attorney Horn, the charges and other information presented in court: Rodney Byrd owned and operated several metropolitan Atlanta area stores named “Tweet Baby Tweet,” “Chicos and Chicas Variety Store,” and “Tweets, Treats, and Nic Nacs.” Reginald Byrd managed at least one of these stores. The defendants directed employees of the stores to make cash payments to customers in return for the customers’ WIC vouchers and for the use of the customers’ SNAP debit cards, which is a violation of the terms of the WIC program and SNAP.
As a result, tens of thousands of WIC vouchers totaling millions of dollars were deposited into bank accounts under the control of Rodney Byrd. A large number of these vouchers were for prescribed infant formula that is supposed to be given to malnourished infants or infants who cannot use traditional formula. Instead of selling products such as this to needy recipients, the defendants and their co-conspirators unlawfully purchased the vouchers for cash. This scheme resulted in an estimated loss to the government of $5,747,817.18.
U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May sentenced Rodney Byrd, 41, of Atlanta, Georgia to four years in prison and Reginald Byrd, 40 of Atlanta, Georgia to one year and one day in prison. Both defendants were also sentenced to three years of supervised release, a special assessment of $100, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $5,747,817.18. The defendants were convicted of conspiracy to commit WIC and SNAP fraud on July 17, 2015, when they pled guilty to these charges.
This case was investigated by the United States Department of Agriculture, Office of the Inspector General and Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation.
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 Atlanta Division is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.