The sentencing hearing has been postponed for a 77-year-old Wilkinson County man in a $6 million food stamp fraud case.
The hearing for Elbert Eugene Shinholster, who has pleaded guilty to food stamp program fraud and money laundering, has been rescheduled for Oct. 18, according to federal court records.
Shinholster could face as many as 20 years in prison for each charge in addition to fines and possible restitution.
A multi-agency investigation launched in 2010 found that more than 1,900 people illegally swiped electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards at stores owned by Shinholster and 59-year-old Alfred Boyd, bringing in an alleged $6 million in fraudulent business.
Instead of using the EBT cards to buy food, as intended by the government, cardholders received cash. Shinholster and Boyd charged fees of between 30 and 45 percent for the transactions.
Although the documents arent open for public inspection, the federal court docket shows Shinholsters lawyer has filed 15 character letters, a copy of Shinholsters honorable discharge from the U.S. Army and multiple certificates of appreciation for the judge to consider when deciding Shinholsters sentencing.
The sentencing hearing has been rescheduled five times since his Jan. 30, 2012, plea agreement, according to court records.
Prosecutors have alleged fraud at Shinholsters store, Shinholsters Grocery and Meat Market on Martin Luther King Jr. Road in Irwinton, began in 2006 and continued until March 2011 and totaled $4.6 million. He received an estimated $1.4 million in profits, according to court documents.
Fraud at The Northwind Mini Mart on Northwind Circle in McIntyre, owned by Boyd, allegedly began in December 2009 and lasted until March 2011. Although authorities say the store did about $2 million in business, prosecutors and Boyds lawyer have agreed Boyd is only responsible for a $800,000 loss to the food stamp program.
He has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud and is scheduled for sentencing next month. Boyd faces a maximum five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and possible restitution.
Sixteen EBT cardholders also have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud and are scheduled for sentencing this fall. Each could face as many as five years in prison and a $250,0000 fine, according to plea agreements signed by the cardholders.
Chiquita Boyd, Boyds niece who worked at his store, also has pleaded guilty to food stamp fraud and faces up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.