LITTLE ROCK— Cody Hiland, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas, announced Thursday that United States District Court Judge Kristine G. Baker sentenced Elbert Harris, 58, of Pine Bluff, to federal prison for his role in a widespread scheme to steal money intended for feeding children in low-income areas in Arkansas.
Baker sentenced Harris, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud on Oct. 10, 2017, to 33 months imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Harris was also ordered to pay $1,084,130.13 in restitution and to forfeit property he bought with money he acquired during the scheme.
The United States Department of Agriculture feeding programs in Arkansas are administered through the Arkansas Department of Human Services. 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.
Harris was a sponsor for a feeding program through an organization called “Greater Faith Ministries.” Harris had 14 approved feeding site locations, which were located in Pine Bluff, Altheimer, and Wabbaseka. Harris submitted fraudulent claims to DHS, claiming to have fed many more children than were actually fed, and then DHS would reimburse him for that amount. Harris submitted claims of up to 165 children per day at some of his feeding sites, but fewer than 20 children were actually fed at these locations.
Harris is the 16th defendant sentenced who was charged in connection with a scheme to fraudulently obtain USDA program funds intended to feed children in low-income areas.
The investigation is still ongoing and continues to be conducted by the USDA Office of Inspector General, IRS–Criminal Investigations, and the FBI. If you are aware of any fraudulent activity regarding feeding programs, please email that information to USAARE.FeedingProgramFraud@usdoj.gov.