A second Wilkinson County store owner was sentenced to federal prison Thursday for his part in a $6 million food stamp fraud case.
A U.S. District Court judge sentenced 59-year-old Alfred Boyd to 52 months in prison. Boyd, who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit food stamp fraud, also must pay $800,000 restitution, according to the U.S. Attorneys Office.
A multiagency investigation launched in 2010 found that more than 1,900 people illegally swiped electronic benefit transfer cards at stores owned by Boyd and 77-year-old Elbert Eugene Shinholster. Instead of using the cards to buy food, cardholders received cash. The store owners charged fees ranging between 30 and 45 percent.
Authorities have said the transactions at Boyds store, Northwind Mini Mart 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.
Page Pate, Boyds lawyer, said he and Boyd were surprised that the judge handed down a longer sentence for Boyd than for Shinholster, who was sentenced to 40 months on Oct. 18.
Mr. Shinholster engaged in much more fraud than Mr. Boyd, Pate said.
Shinholster, who operated Shinholsters Grocery and Meat Market in Irwinton, admitted to more than $4 million in fraud, Pate said.
In our case, it was under a million, he said.
While prosecutors and Pate agreed that the loss to the food stamp program was $800,000, the judge believed it was much more than that and lengthened the sentence accordingly, Pate said. Because of that, Pate said he and Boyd are considering an appeal.
As part of Thursdays hearing, Boyd addressed the judge and said that in many cases he gave people dollar for dollar the amount of money they wanted from their EBT cards without getting a profit, Pate said.
In addition to his prison sentence, Shinholster must pay $4,680,557 in restitution and serve three years on supervised release.
Authorities estimated he pocketed $1.4 million in profit, according to court documents.
Boyds niece, 37-year-old Chiquita Boyd, was sentenced to five years on probation as part of the case. She also must help pay $800,000 restitution.
Criminal charges were filed against 16 EBT cardholders who did business at the store. Eleven have been sentenced to five years on probation and to pay restitution to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to federal court records. Two of those 11 cardholders also were ordered to serve short jail sentences.
Sentencing hearings for five other cardholders are scheduled for later this year.
Information from Telegraph archives were used in this report. To contact writer Amy Leigh Womack, call 744-4398.