LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Elbert Harris, 57, of Pine Bluff, pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud after stealing more than $1 million intended to feed children in low income areas.
At the plea hearing, Harris admitted that between 2012 and 2015, he was a sponsor for the feeding program through “Greater Faith Ministries,” which had feeding locations in Pine Bluff, Altheimer, and Wabbaseka. Harris will be sentence at a later date.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) funds the Child and Adult Care Feeding Program, which includes an at-risk, after school 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. After they are approved, they can provide meals as part of the feeding program, and they are reimbursed for the eligible meals they serve.
A federal court official said Harris operated 14 feeding sites where he falsely claimed that he served approximately 175 children at some of the feeding sites, inflating the number of children who were actually served. Harris submitted approximately 44 claims. Because of the inflated claims, Harris received more than $1.3 million from DHS.
Harris is the 14th person to plead guilty concerning the theft of USDA feeding program funds for children. In addition to those who have pleaded guilty, two defendants have been convicted at trial.
Previous charges filed in this investigation detail fraud involving more than $10 million in USDA feeding program funds.
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.
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