SHREVEPORT, La. -- A Webster Parish woman who stole more than $1 million from a feeding program designed to feed poor children during the summer will spend just shy of six years in federal prison.
U.S. District Judge Donald E. Walter sentenced Myrna Thomas Quarles, 59, of Cotton Valley on Thursday to 71 months in federal prison. She'll also be on three years of supervised release following her confinement and must pay almost $1.47 million in restitution.
Quarles pleaded guilty in September to theft of government property.
Quarles was the director of Greater Horizons Developmental Services, a non-profit headquartered in Webster Parish, which received reimbursements from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Feeding Service Program. From 2014 through 2015, Greater Horizons submitted reimbursement claims that greatly inflated the number of eligible meals provided, U.S. Attorney David Joseph said in a news release.
Once Greater Horizons received the money, Quarles wrote checks that were payable to vendors and other third parties, but instead of sending those checks to the vendors, Quarles deposited that money into her personal bank account.
Additionally, Quarles used the Greater Horizons’ checking account to pay for personal expenses that she charged to a Greater Horizons credit card totaling $370,816.61. Purchases included real estate, farm equipment, a restaurant, air travel, cruises and designer luxury items.
“Quarles stole from a taxpayer-funded program meant to provide meals to children,” Joseph said in a statement. “My office will continue to aggressively prosecute this and other types of fraud. Today’s sentence should send the clear message that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners will bring justice to those who defraud the taxpayers and take advantage of the most vulnerable among us.”
“Make no mistake – this was bold and shameless thievery of nearly $1.5 million intended to feed hungry children,” Louisiana Inspector General Stephen Street said in a statement. “Ms. Quarles showed an outrageous lack of concern for the taxpayers and the children those funds were supposed to benefit. Today’s sentence should send the message loud and clear that the party is over. If you steal from the public, you had better be prepared to go to jail. We will continue doing everything in our power to make sure of it. I want to thank United States Attorney David C. Joseph and his staff for their usual outstanding work, as well as our partners at the FBI.”
The FBI, and State of Louisiana, Office of State Inspector General, conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian C. Flanagan and First Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander C. Van Hook prosecuted the case.