SHREVEPORT, La. – Teressia Garner, 60, of Minden, pleaded guilty on July 9 to embezzling from a non-profit organization and converting government funds to her own use.
U.S. District Judge Donald E. Walter will sentence Garner at 10 a.m. Oct. 13. She faces up to 10 years in prison.
Garner is the former director and registered agent of Safe Haven Development Inc., a non-profit corporation that had an agreement with the Louisiana Department of Education to participate in several child nutrition programs. The programs get their money from the federal government but are administered through the state. From 2011 through 2015, Safe Haven provided meals to children and adults in participating child care centers, adult day care centers and day care homes.
On Dec. 15, 2015, Garner planned a Christmas party for the employees of Safe Haven at the Wyndham Garden Shreveport. She paid for the party, totaling $9,578.48, with program funds that had been deposited into the Safe Haven business account.
The party included the expense of renting a large ballroom, catered food and an open bar serving alcohol. The money Garner used was supposed to be spent in child nutrition programs and not for entertainment purposes.
"Ms. Garner’s greed was evident, stealing money designated for the USDA Summer Food Service and Child and Adult Care Food Programs, which provide nutritional meals for children and adults in low-income families, to pay her own personal expenses. Ms. Garner’s guilty plea sends a clear message and will be a deterrent to others who would attempt to defraud American taxpayers”, said Douglas Williams, FBI New Orleans Special Agent in Charge. “I would like to thank the efforts put forth by our partners at the United States Attorney’s Office, Southern District of Mississippi, Office of State Inspector General, State of Louisiana, and the Office of Inspector General, United States Department of Agriculture.”
USDA OIG Special Agent in Charge Dax Roberson stated: “I want to thank the US Attorney’s office, OIG special agents, and our investigative partners for their hard work on this investigation. When the integrity of nutrition programs for needy children is violated by criminal conduct, the Office of Inspector General will pursue justice to the fullest extent of the law.”
Louisiana Inspector General Stephen Street commented: “This is just the latest in a series of successful criminal cases where summer nutrition funds were stolen without a shred of regard for the children the funds were supposed to benefit. It is criminal behavior based in pure greed, and we have zero tolerance for it. The Louisiana OIG will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to aggressively pursue criminal consequences for anyone who steals from the public.” Street added, “I want to thank Assistant United States Attorneys Erin Chalk and Meghan McCalla for their outstanding work, as well as our partners at the FBI and USDA OIG.”