Eighth Person Charged for Role in Federal Feeding Program Fraud
LITTLE ROCK—Another feeding program sponsor has been charged for her role in a scheme to steal federal money. Christopher R. Thyer, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, announced today that Maria Carmen Nelson, age 49, has been arrested after the filing of a complaint.
The complaint, filed today, charges Nelson with wire fraud as part of a scheme to fraudulently obtain United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) program funds. Following her arrest, Nelson was arraigned and released on bond by Judge J. Thomas Ray. Nelson is the eighth person charged in an ongoing investigation. She is an employee of a security firm that guards the Federal Building in Little Rock.
The USDA funds the Child and Adult Care Feeding Program, which includes an at-risk afterschool component. In Arkansas, the feeding programs are administered by the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS). Sponsors who want to participate in the feeding programs must submit an application to DHS for approval. Once approved, they can provide meals as part of the feeding program and be reimbursed based on the number of eligible meals they serve.
The complaint states that Nelson operated as a sponsor for a feeding program through an organization called “Securing Our Future.” It alleges that Nelson applied with DHS to participate as a sponsor, and the DHS employee who approved her application also approved the application of Michael R. Lee, who was indicted in July 2015. The complaint states that she falsely represented her average daily attendance of children who were fed. In this way, Nelson stole over $575,000 of federal funds, according to the complaint.
You may report fraudulent activity regarding these feeding programs by contacting USAARE.FeedingProgramFraud@usdoj.gov.
The statutory penalty for wire fraud is not more than 20 years’ imprisonment, not more than a $250,000 fine, or both, and not more than three years’ supervised release. The investigation is ongoing and is conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture—Office of the Inspector General, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations, and United States Marshals Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Jana Harris and Allison W. Bragg.
A complaint contains only allegations. Defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.