A Wilkinson County store employee was sentenced to probation Wednesday in federal court as part of a $6 million food stamp fraud case.
A multiagency investigation launched in 2010 found that more than 1,900 people illegally swiped electronic benefit transfer cards at stores owned by 77-year-old Elbert Eugene Shinholster and 59-year-old Alfred Boyd, bringing in an alleged $6 million in fraudulent business.
Instead of using the cards to buy food, cardholders received cash. Both store owners charged fees of between 30 and 45 percent for the transactions.
Boyds niece, 37-year-old Chiquita Boyd, was sentenced to five years on probation Wednesday following her guilty plea to food stamp fraud. She also must help pay $800,000 in restitution at a rate of $25 each month while shes on probation, according to the U.S. Attorneys Office.
Her lawyer, Reza Sedghi, said the sentence was a fair disposition for the case.
He basically ran the show and told her what to do, Sedghi said of Alfred Boyd. She didnt get any financial benefit.
Fraud at Alfred Boyds store, The Northwind Mini Mart on Northwind Circle in McIntyre, allegedly began in December 2009 and lasted until March 2011. Prosecutors and Boyds lawyer have agreed Boyd is only responsible for a $800,000 government loss, although authorities have said the store did about $2 million in business.
A sentencing hearing for Boyd began Wednesday, but was postponed, said Page Pate, Boyds lawyer. A date for the continuation of the hearing has not been set.
Boyd has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud.
Shinholster, who has pleaded guilty to food stamp program fraud and money laundering, is scheduled for sentencing next week. Prosecutors have alleged fraud at Shinholsters store, Shinholsters Grocery and Meat Market on Martin Luther King Jr. Road in Irwinton, occurred between 2006 and 2011 and totaled $4.6 million. He pocketed an estimated $1.4 million in profit, according to court documents.
Six EBT cardholders were sentenced in September after they pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud.
Each was ordered to serve five years on probation and pay restitution to the U.S. Department of Agriculture on monthly payment plans, according to federal court records.
The cardholders also are prohibited from incurring new credit charges or opening new lines of credit without approval from the U.S. Probation Office.
Two cardholders must serve jail time in addition to their time on probation:
Kristi Northern, 28, was sentenced to serve 20 days in jail in increments of 48 hours at a time during 10 consecutive weeks. Keisha Robinson, 38, must serve 16 days in jail in increments of 48 hours for eight consecutive weeks, according to court records.
Northern also must pay $6,212 restitution and Robinson must pay $9,923. The judge assigned both women a payment plan requiring $50 to be paid monthly while they are on probation.
Cassandra Harris, 41, was ordered to pay $9,841 restitution. Jazmin Hunter, 24, was ordered to pay $7,440 restitution. Tracey McDowell, 39, was ordered to pay $9,181 restitution. Pamela Johnson, 34, was ordered to pay $13,828 restitution. Harris, Hunter and McDowell must pay at a rate of $25 monthly while they are on probation while Johnson must pay $50 each month, according to court records.
Sentencing hearings for 10 other cardholders are scheduled for later this year.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.