A Wilkinson County store owner was sentenced to 40 months in prison Friday for his part in a $6 million food stamp fraud case.
Elbert Eugene Shinholster, 77, also must serve three years on supervised release and pay $4,680,557 restitution, according to the U.S. Attorneys Office.
A multi-agency investigation launched in 2010 found that more than 1,900 people illegally swiped electronic benefit transfer cards at stores owned by Shinholster and 59-year-old Alfred Boyd.
Instead of using the cards to buy food, cardholders received cash while the store owners charged fees of between 30 and 45 percent.
Authorities said the transactions at Shinholsters store, Shinholsters Grocery and Meat Market on Martin Luther King Jr. Road in Irwinton, happened between 2006 and 2011 and totaled $4.6 million. He pocketed an estimated $1.4 million in profit, according to court documents.
Boyd, who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud, is scheduled for sentencing Oct. 31.
Authorities said the transactions at Boyds store, Northwind Mini Mart on Northwind Circle in McIntyre, began in December 2009 and lasted until March 2011. Although the store did about $2 million in business, prosecutors and Boyds lawyer have agreed that he is only responsible for an $800,000 government loss.
Boyds niece, 37-year-old Chiquita Boyd, worked in his store and was sentenced to five years on probation earlier this month after she pleaded guilty to food stamp fraud. She also must help pay $800,000 restitution.
Criminal charges were filed against 16 EBT cardholders who did business at the stores. Six were sentenced in September to five years on probation and to pay restitution to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to federal court records.
Two of the cardholders also were ordered to serve short jail sentences.
Sentencing hearings for 10 other cardholders are scheduled for later this year.
To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.