FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 16, 2009
14 Defendants Indicted in Food Stamp Fraud Case
- Initial arrests were made today in the cases of 14 current and former state employees recently indicted as a result of a year-long joint investigation by the Baton Rouge Office of the United States Secret Service and the Louisiana Department of Social Services' (DSS) Fraud and Recovery Section into fraudulent activity during the Disaster Food Stamp Program in St. Mary Parish.
The 57 count indictment alleges that the individuals were involved in the fraudulent certification of Disaster Food Stamp cases following Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike resulting in theft of U.S. Department of Agriculture funds totaling more than $50,000. The indictments were handed down in the U.S. District Court, Western District of Louisiana, on November 10, 2009.
"Our administration has zero tolerance for employee fraud and malfeasance," said DSS Secretary Kristy Nichols. "Maintaining the integrity of our public assistance programs is critical to our mission to provide services for Louisiana residents while serving as responsible stewards of public funds. It is our policy to aggressively investigate allegations of fraud with respect to our employees and recipients with the goal of rooting out such activity to ensure that taxpayer's funds are reserved for those who are truly in need."
The 14 individuals include current and former employees of DSS' Office of Family Support (OFS) and the Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) in St. Mary and Iberia parishes along with St. Mary Parish 911 Communications.
Today's arrests include former St. Mary Parish OFS employees Edie Harrison of Baldwin, La., and Paula Bell of New Iberia, La., and Iberia Parish DHH employee Felicia Carroll of Jeanerette, La.
Others indicted included:
- Teresa Hawkins - former St. Mary Parish OFS Family Services Parish Manager
- Angela Gray - former St. Mary Parish OFS employee
- Laura Wells - former St. Mary Parish OFS employee
- Harriet Williams - former St. Mary Parish OFS employee
- Andrea Broussard - St. Mary Parish OFS employee
- Dorothy Reedom - St. Mary Parish OFS employee
- Tawana Carson - St. Mary Parish OFS employee
- Sheila Blevins - Iberia Parish OFS employee
- Barbara Sanders - St. Mary Parish DHH Area Manager
- Barbara Sonia - St. Mary Parish DHH employee
- Marich Anderson - St. Mary Parish 911 Director
Current OFS employees have been placed on suspension.
The counts lodged against these individuals include conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, embezzlement of public funds, and lying to a federal agent. Examples of the criminal activity involved applying for assistance for deceased or non-existent people, receiving assistance for persons who lived out of state, and willful disregard of applicants' household income and liquid assets which are major criteria used to determine eligibility. This fraud was committed by state employees who were entrusted with preventing such acts.
Support for the investigation was provided by St. Mary Parish Sheriff David Naquin and Franklin City Police Chief Sabria McGuire.
This investigation is ongoing and more indictments are expected.
The charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations, and each defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
To report suspected illegal receipt of public assistance benefits or illegal use of an EBT card, call the toll-free Public Assistance Fraud Hotline at 1-800-256-3150. To learn more, visit www.dss.louisiana.gov/reportfraud