LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (News release) — Anthony Waits, 38, of England, was sentenced to prison for his role in a multi-million dollar scheme to steal money intended for feeding children in low income areas.
Judge Moody sentenced Waits on Wednesday following a hearing to 175 months’ imprisonment followed by three years of supervised release. He was also ordered to pay $3.3 million in restitution. A jury convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud following an eight-day trial in April.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) feeding programs in Arkansas are administered through the Arkansas Department of Human Services (DHS). Sponsors who want to participate in the feeding programs must submit an application to DHS for approval. After they are approved, they can provide meals as part of the feeding programs, and they are reimbursed for the eligible meals they serve.
Waits, not a sponsor himself, recruited sponsors to participate in the feeding program. The sponsors he recruited then paid a percentage of the money they received from the program back to Waits. Five sponsors who Waits recruited have pleaded guilty to their involvement and admitted to making payments to Waits. The sponsors who Waits recruited received over $3.3 million in federal funds meant to feed children, and many testified at trial that they paid Waits approximately 40 percent of what they received.
Anthony Waits’ estranged wife, Gladys Waits, worked for DHS. She was responsible for processing applications from sponsors who applied to participate in the feeding programs, determining their eligibility, and approving their proposed feeding sites. Gladys Waits also helped these sponsors avoid DHS’s detection of the fraud.
Gladys Waits received bribe payments from some sponsors, both directly through checks made payable to her and indirectly through checks made payable to relatives, including Anthony Waits. Anthony Waits recruited sponsors Reuben Nims, James Franklin, Christopher Nichols, Waymon Weeams, and Dortha Harper to participate.
Anthony Waits is the 12th defendant to be sentenced for his involvement in a scheme to fraudulently obtain USDA program funds intended to feed children in low income areas. Other defendants sentenced include: Kattie Jordan (63 months’ imprisonment on March 15, 2016); Nims (21 months’ imprisonment on November 2, 2016); Tonique Hatton (108 months’ imprisonment on January 4, 2017); Franklin (24 months’ imprisonment on January 10, 2017); Maria Nelson (30 months’ imprisonment on January 31, 2017); Michael Lee (30 months’ imprisonment on May 1, 2017); Nichols (three years’ probation on May 16, 2017); Gladys Waits (108 months’ imprisonment on July 17, 2017); Alexis Young (18 months’ imprisonment on August 18, 2017); Erica Warren (18 months’ imprisonment on August 18, 2017); and, Francine Leon (34 months’ imprisonment on September 21, 2017).
Weeams and Harper have pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud USDA feeding programs and are awaiting sentencing. Jacqueline Mills was convicted along with Anthony Waits on April 6, 2017, following the jury trial and will be sentenced on December 6, 2017.
In this investigation law enforcement has uncovered more than $11 million in fraud related to these USDA Arkansas feeding programs.
Although everyone initially indicted in this scheme has now been convicted, the investigation is still ongoing, and continues to be conducted by the USDA–Office of Inspector General, Internal Revenue Service–Criminal Investigations, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and United States Marshals Service.
If you are aware of any fraudulent activity regarding feeding programs, please email that information to USAARE.FeedingProgramFraud@usdoj.gov.
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