LITTLE ROCK - A Little Rock woman pleaded guilty Thursday to defrauding a federally funded program intended to provide meals to children in low-income areas.
Maria Carmen Nelson, 50, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Little Rock to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. She will be sentenced at a later date, according to a news release from Chris Thyer, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Arkansas.
Federal prosecutors say that in 2015, while Nelson was serving as a sponsor for a feeding program through an organization called Securing Our Future, with sites in Little Rock and Malvern, she entered into a scheme with a then-employee of the state Department of Human Services to defraud the program and share the proceeds.
Prosecutors say that by inflating the number of children fed at the sites, Nelson fraudulently obtained $575,918 from the program, which is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered in Arkansas by DHS. She shared the money with the DHS employee, according to prosecutors.
Conspiracy to commit wire fraud carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Thyer’s release Thursday did not identify the former DHS employee, but in March he announced that former DHS employee Gladys Waits had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and receipt of a bribe in connection with a scheme to defraud a USDA feeding program. Waits has not yet been sentenced.