Woman gets nine years

Meal-fraud helper given sen­tence in U.S. lockup

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NORTHWEST ARKANSAS - LINDA SATTER

A for­mer state De­part­ment of Hu­man Ser­vices em­ployee who ad­mit­ted tak­ing bribes to help sev­eral peo­ple sub­mit phony claims that they pro­vided meals for low-in­come chil­dren in Arkansas was sen­tenced Mon­day to nine years in fed­eral prison, where pa­role is un­avail­able.

U.S. District Judge James Moody Jr. sen­tenced Gla­dys Waits, who is also known as Gla­dys King, to the 108-month sen­tence, at the low end of a penalty range rec­om­mended by fed­eral sen­tenc­ing guide­lines.

De­fense at­tor­ney Molly Sul­li­van of the fed­eral pub­lic de­fender’s of­fice in Lit­tle Rock sought a pro­ba­tion-only sen­tence, while As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney Jana Har­ris asked only for a sen­tence within the guide­line range, cit­ing Waits’ co­op­er­a­tion in the pros­e­cu­tion of sev­eral peo­ple who, al­to­gether, de­frauded a staterun U.S. De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture pro­gram of more than $9.6 mil­lion.

Resti­tu­tion of the full amount — $9,669,269.66 — is re­quired in fed­eral fraud cases. Moody or­dered Waits to pay it “jointly and sev­er­ally” with all other de­fen­dants who are even­tu­ally sen­tenced in the case.

Moody or­dered Waits, 37, of Lit­tle Rock to pay 50 per­cent of all money avail­able to her to­ward the resti­tu­tion while she is in prison. He or­dered her to then pay 10 per­cent of all money avail­able to her once she en­ters a so­ci­etal re-en­try pro­gram, and to con­tinue pay­ing 10 per­cent of her avail­able money upon her re­lease.

As­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­ney Chris Givens, a spokesman for the U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice, said later that de­fen­dants who fail to pay resti­tu­tion while on pro­ba­tion, or su­per­vised re­lease, can have their pro­ba­tion re­voked and be re­turned to prison if fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors file a re­vo­ca­tion re­quest and a judge agrees.

He said if a de­fen­dant pays resti­tu­tion while on pro­ba­tion but then stops af­ter the sen­tence is com­pleted, the civil fi­nan­cial lit­i­ga­tion unit of the U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice takes over the case. The unit would seek a civil judg­ment against the de­fen­dant for the re­main­ing amount, al­low­ing the govern­ment to gar­nish wages or ob­tain liens on prop­erty.

Moody noted that be­cause of her co­op­er­a­tion, Waits’ sen­tence may later be re­duced fur­ther at the re­quest of pros­e­cu­tors.

Waits and Tonique Hat­ton, a for­mer grants co­or­di­na­tor for the state De­part­ment of Hu­man Ser­vices, were the key wit­nesses at a March trial of Waits’ es­tranged hus­band, An­thony Waits, 38, and Jac­que­line Mills, 41. Both An­thony Waits, of Eng­land in Lonoke County, and Mills, of He­lena-West He­lena, were con­victed of wire-fraud con­spir­acy and are await­ing sen­tenc­ing.

Hat­ton, 39, of North Lit­tle Rock is serv­ing a nine-year prison term af­ter she, like Gla­dys Waits, pleaded guilty be­fore the trial. They ad­mit­ted to be­ing the “gate­keep­ers” for the fraud scheme, which op­er­ated be­tween early 2012 and Au­gust 2014.

The two state em­ploy­ees ad­mit­ted they re­cruited and helped peo­ple qual­ify as spon­sors to feed chil­dren through USDA pro­grams ad­min­is­tered by the state, know­ing the so-called spon­sors in­tended to de­fraud the pro­gram. Waits and Hat­ton also helped the phony spon­sors fill out doc­u­men­ta­tion that they pro­vided meals, so the spon­sors could re­ceive govern­ment re­im­burse­ments de­posited di­rectly into their check­ing ac­counts.

Even in cases where spon­sors pro­vided some meals or snacks to chil­dren for whom the pro­gram was in­tended, those fig­ures were dra­mat­i­cally ex­ag­ger­ated, pros­e­cu­tors said. In many cases, they said, no chil­dren were fed at all.

Waits, who pro­cessed ap­pli­ca­tions from po­ten­tial spon­sors, de­ter­mined their el­i­gi­bil­ity and ap­proved their feed­ing-site lo­ca­tions, is the eighth per­son to be sen­tenced for her in­volve­ment in the food-pro­gram fraud. She ad­mit­ted tak­ing bribes both di­rectly and through pay­ments to An­thony Waits, whom a jury found de­manded a per­cent­age of pro­ceeds re­ceived from spon­sors he re­cruited.

Other de­fen­dants who have been sen­tenced to date, other than Hat­ton, are Kat­tie Jor­dan, 51, of Der­mott, sen­tenced to 63 months, or just over five years, in March 2016; Reuben Nims, 53, who was Gla­dys Waits’ broth­erin-law and was sen­tenced on Nov. 2 to 21 months in prison; James Franklin Jr. of Mar­i­anna, sen­tenced in Jan­uary to two years; Maria Nel­son, a for­mer con­tracted se­cu­rity of­fi­cer for the fed­eral ad­min­is­tra­tion build­ing in Lit­tle Rock, who was sen­tenced in Jan­uary to 2½ years; Michael Lee, sen­tenced May 1 to 2½ years; and Christopher Nichols, the nephew of Gla­dys and An­thony Waits, who was sen­tenced May 16 to three years’ pro­ba­tion.

Five oth­ers have been con­victed of wire-fraud con­spir­acy and await sen­tenc­ing.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion is on­go­ing by the USDA’s Of­fice of In­spec­tor Gen­eral, the FBI, the IRS’ Crim­i­nal In­ves­ti­ga­tions unit and the U.S. Mar­shals Ser­vice. It is be­ing pros­e­cuted by Har­ris and as­sis­tant U.S. At­tor­neys Al­li­son Bragg and Cameron McCree.

The U.S. at­tor­ney’s of­fice asks that any­one aware of any fraud­u­lent ac­tiv­ity re­gard­ing the food pro­grams email the in­for­ma­tion to USAARE. Feed­ingPro­gramFraud@us­doj.gov.

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