- Associated Press - Thursday, March 31, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - A former Arkansas Department of Human Services employee has admitted in federal court that she accepted bribes to approve payments between $3.5 million and $9.5 million in federal funds to people she knew were dishonestly claiming to supply food for hungry children.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette (https://bit.ly/1X0nTDF ) reports that 36-year-old Gladys Elise Waits pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and receipt of a bribe Wednesday in a deal to have several other counts dismissed.

Waits had been scheduled to be tried by a federal jury in May. Four others, including another former department employee and Waits’ estranged husband, are still awaiting trial.

Waits and two other women were indicted in December 2014.

Waits and fellow employee Tonique Hatton were described as “gatekeepers” of a conspiracy that lasted from June 2012 through August 2014. Prosecutors say they accepted at least $250,000 in bribes from Jacqueline Mills, who received $2.5 million in federal funds for claims that were greatly exaggerated or false.

Kattie Jordan of Dermott, who was later added to the indictment, is serving a five-year prison sentence after admitting to paying bribes to Waits and Hatton in return for receiving $3.6 million in federal funds.

Thirteen people have now been charged with feeding program fraud. Waits was the seventh person to plead guilty. She and the other who pleaded guilty have admitted that they committed more than $5.3 million in fraud altogether.

The remaining six defendants awaiting trial have different trial dates.

U.S. Attorney Chris Thyer says the feeding program fraud resulted in the theft of more than $10.5 million in funds designated for feeding disadvantaged children through summer and after-school nutrition programs.


Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com

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