Federal Jury Finds 3 Defendants Guilty In $8 Million Food Stamp Fraud And Money Laudering Conspiracy
SAVANNAH, GA: RASHELLA REED, 41, from Riverdale, Georgia; DERRICK ROBINSON, 41, also from Riverdale; and, TORY HARDWICK, 21, from Chattanooga, Tennessee, were convicted last week after a 4-day jury trial before United States District Court Judge William T. Moore, Jr. for their roles in an $8 million fraud upon the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as the Food Stamp Program, and the Women, Infant and Children Program (WIC).
According to evidence presented during the trial, the defendants conspired to traffick over $8 million in government benefits from SNAP and the WIC program, and to launder the proceeds of their ill-gotten gains. The scheme included 13 storefronts throughout Georgia, including stores in Savannah, Augusta, Atlanta, Decatur, Macon and Columbus. Defendants Reed, Robinson and Hardwick owned or operated the Decatur, Georgia store known as “The Baby Spot.” The 13 stores amounted to “pretend” grocery stores, which were used as a front to buy over $8 million in food stamp benefits and WIC vouchers for cash. SNAP and WIC recipients were paid anywhere from $.10 to $.60 on the dollar for their benefits; the defendants and other conspirators pocketed the rest. A total of 16 defendants were charged with the scheme; the other 13 defendants pled guilty.
United States Attorney Edward J. Tarver said, “SNAP and WIC are food programs set up to help those who need help. These defendants scammed federal food programs and swindled American taxpayers. Let this case serve as notice to any would-be fraudster that if you exchange food stamps and WIC vouchers for cash, you can expect your next meal to be served from the chow-line at a federal prison.”
Karen Citizen-Wilcox, Special Agent-in-Charge of the USDA-OIG said, “The United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, remains diligent in working with federal, state, and local law enforcement and the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute individuals and entities bent on defrauding, through trafficking, Agriculture food programs that have been created to provide food purchasing power to those who would otherwise not have such purchasing power. The American taxpayer expects that the tax dollars used to fund such programs will be used for the intended purposes of the programs. The Office of Inspector General will continue its diligence in working with its law enforcement partners to pursue prosecution of individuals such as those convicted in this investigation to ensure the integrity of Agriculture programs.”
The prosecution of this case arose out of an investigation led by Special Agent Salina Walker of the United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General. AssistantUnited States Attorneys James D. Durham and E. Gregory Gilluly prosecuted the case for the United States.