Former CEO of Atlanta-Area Daycare Chain Sentenced to Prison for Stealing Nearly $2 Million in Federal Child Nutrition Funds
ATLANTA—Antonio T. Hurt has been sentenced to two years and one month in federal prison for stealing nearly $2 million from a federal program that partially reimburses daycare centers for the cost of meals for needy children.
“Hurt used the child nutrition funds to expand his day care business, lease cars, buy jewelry, and pay for other personal expenses,” said United States Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. “Stealing almost $2 million in taxpayer money is bad enough, but stealing funds intended to feed underprivileged children is outrageous.”
J. Britt Johnson, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Atlanta Field Office, stated: “Stealing federal funds destined to feed needy children and using those funds to purchase luxury personal items is the epitome of a selfish act. This sentencing will hold Mr. Hurt accountable for his selfish act and serve as a reminder that the FBI will make every effort to identify and present for prosecution those individuals abusing their positions by diverting and stealing federal funds from their intended purpose for personal gain.”
“It is unfortunate that programs funded by the government, such as this one which assists in providing healthy meals to eligible day care children, are sometimes seen as a mechanism for fraud by individuals who continue to think they can get away with schemes to enrich themselves. Taxpayers trust that when such funding is provided that it will be utilized to help people and not be misused and misappropriated by those entrusted to deliver the programs. The United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General, continues to dedicate its resources to work with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and its federal, state, and local law enforcement partners to investigate and prosecute such individuals. We hope that today’s sentencing of Mr. Hurt sends a strong message to others that fraud will not be tolerated in government funded programs,” said Karen Citizen-Wilcox, Special Agent-in-Charge for USDA’s Office of Inspector General.
According to United States Attorney Yates, the charges, and other information presented in court: Between 2007 and 2010, Hurt served as the chief executive officer of Bright Star Early Learning Center, which owned and operated multiple daycare centers throughout metropolitan Atlanta, Ga., and in other parts of north Georgia under the name Bright Star. Hurt also entered into franchise agreements that allowed multiple additional third-party daycare centers to operate under the Bright Star name.
In February 2006, Hurt arranged for Bright Star Early Learning Center to apply to participate in the Child & Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). CACFP, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the National School Lunch Act of 1964, is a federal program that partially reimburses daycare centers for the cost of serving breakfast and lunch to eligible children whose family income falls below certain thresholds. In Georgia, the program is administered by the Georgia Department of Early Care & Learning. Child and adult care centers that are eligible to participate in the program are required to submit monthly claims to the Department of Early Care & Learning to detail the number of eligible students, meals, and other information for each 30-day period. The Department of Early Care & Learning then reimburses the daycare centers.
Beginning in October 2007 and continuing through January 2010, Hurt submitted millions of dollars in CACFP reimbursement claims to the Department of Early Care & Learning on behalf of his own daycare centers and his franchisees. Hurt’s reimbursement claims intentionally misstated the number of eligible students, meals, and other information. As a result, the Department of Early Care & Learning issued fraudulently inflated reimbursement funds to accounts that Hurt controlled. Hurt then issued the expected payments to the unsuspecting daycare centers and retained the fraudulently inflated portion for himself, amounting to approximately $1.9 million over a two-year period. Hurt used the money to expand and fund the operation of his daycare business and to live beyond his means.
Hurt, 39, of Macon, Ga., was formerly a high school principal in Georgia and Maryland. Hurt was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Amy Totenberg to two years, one month in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $1,872,152.78. Hurt was convicted on these charges on April 9, 2014, after he pleaded guilty.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Assistant United States Attorney David M. Chaiken prosecuted the case.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.Pressefirstname.lastname@example.org 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/gan/.