ACA.supremecourt.070419

A north Louisiana man has been sentenced to nearly 2½ years in federal prison after admitting he lied to the U.S. Department of Agriculture about how many children he was feeding under the agency's summer meals program.

Corey Roshel Powell, 43, of Delhi, was sentenced to 29 months in prison, the U.S. Attorney's office said Friday.

According to prosecutors, Powell operated the NELLA Foundation, a nonprofit that participated in the summer food program in Bastrop, Winnsboro and Marion. Though NELLA operated in north Louisiana, the nonprofit was based in the tiny eastern Ascension community of Darrow, southwest of Gonzales, prosecutors said.

In 2014 and 2015, the government said, Powell and a co-defendant inflated the number of meals NELLA served to low-income children, then submitted the false numbers with claims for reimbursement.

Across the two summers, the claims totaled around $265,000. Prosecutors say Powell deposited more than $84,000 of those reimbursements over the course of two years into a private bank account he used for his personal expenses and to share with his co-conspirator.

Powell and the co-defendant used the money for car payments and rent, or withdrew money as cash, according to the U.S. Attorney's office at Baton Rouge. Prosecutors said the two were caught after defaulting on lines of credit used with food distribution companies.

Two implicated in scheme to defraud program for poor children

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The summer food program was established to ensure children from low-income homes have meals when school is not in session.

Last year, the former day-to-day manager of the NELLA Foundation, Janie Johnson Smith, 40, of Monroe was indicted on one fraud count. 

Prosecutors say Smith later admitted to submitting false documents that "grossly inflated" how much food the NELLA Foundation served to children. She pleaded guilty to one count of theft of government funds in early September.

Her sentencing is pending and she faces up to 10 years in prison. The court also ordered Smith to forfeit the $36,760 that she stole from the government.

Powell entered his plea to one count of wire fraud Oct. 21, 2020, but U.S. District Judge Shelly D. Dick didn't sentence him until Thursday in Baton Rouge. In addition to the prison time, Powell must have three years of supervised release after he leaves prison and faces forfeiture of his ill-gotten gains, prosecutors said.

Powell must turn himself in to U.S. marshals to start his prison term by Dec. 10.

Both for Smith and Powell, prosecutors filed sealed information after their pleas were made and have kept Powell's pre-sentencing information secret.