LITTLE ROCK — A federal jury returned guilty verdicts Thursday in the trial of two people charged with conspiring to steal federal dollars intended to feed hungry children in Arkansas.
The jury found Jacqueline Mills, 41, of Helena-West Helena guilty of one count of wire-fraud conspiracy, 25 counts of wire fraud, 10 counts of bribery and three counts of money laundering, according to a news release from Patrick Harris, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas.
The jury found Anthony Waits, 38, of England, Ark., guilty of one count of wire-fraud conspiracy.
U.S. District Court Judge James M. Moody Jr. presided over the eight-day trial at the federal courthouse in Little Rock. He will sentence Mills and Waits at a later date.
Wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud are punishable by up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Bribery and money laundering are punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Prosecutors said Mills and Waits stole more than $4 million from U.S. Department of Agriculture feeding programs administered in Arkansas through the Arkansas Department of Human Services.
They said Mills obtained more than $2.7 million in USDA money by reporting inflated numbers of children supposedly fed at 34 feeding sites. In some cases, no meals were served at all.
Co-conspirators Tonique Hatton and Gladys Waits, Anthony Waits’ estranged wife, worked at DHS and aided Mills in the deception, according to the release. Both entered guilty pleas previously in connection with the scheme.
Hatton and Gladys Waits were responsible for approving Mills’ programs at various times. Mills made bribe payments to them to provide protection from DHS scrutiny, according to prosecutors.
Hatton and Gladys Waits were among more than 50 witnesses who testified during the trial of Mills and Anthony Waits.
The jury found that various items of property seized from Mills during the investigation were proceeds of the offense and must be forfeited, including real estate, four vehicles and more than $490,000 seized from multiple bank accounts.
Prosecutors said Anthony Waits recruited multiple feeding-program sponsors to submit inflated feeding claims. The sponsors gave Waits some of the money they received in exchange for his wife approving the claims.
Programs linked to Anthony Waits illegally acquired $1.6 million, according to the release.
Several other defendants already have been sentenced or have entered guilty pleas and are awaiting sentencing in connection with the scheme, which federal authorities say resulted in the theft of more than $11 million from USDA feeding programs. The investigation is continuing.