Louisiana woman steals over $1 million from summer feeding program

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SHREVEPORT, La. (KSLA) — A Webster Parish woman must serve 71 months — a month shy of six years — in federal prison and repay $1,460,541.41 that she stole from a program that feeds needy children during the summer, a U.S. attorney’s office reports.

Myrna Thomas Quarles, 59, of Cotton Valley, was sentenced Thursday in U.S. District Court in Shreveport.

She also must serve three years on federal supervised release once she serves her prison term, according to the office of U.S. Attorney David C. Joseph, of the Western District of Louisiana.

Quarles pleaded guilty Sept. 18 to a charge of theft of government property.

She was director of Greater Horizons Developmental Services.

The Webster Parish-based nonprofit submitted reimbursement claims that greatly inflated the number of eligible meals provided in 2014-15 through the Agriculture Department’s summer feeding program, Joseph’s office reports.

“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, which totaled over $1 million in theft from the federal feeding program.”

Quarles also used the Greater Horizons’ checking account to pay for $370,816.61 in personal expenses — real estate, farm equipment, a restaurant, air travel, cruises and designer luxury items — that she charged to a Greater Horizons credit card, authorities say.

“Quarles stole from a taxpayer-funded program meant to provide meals to children,” Joseph says in a statement about today’s proceedings.

“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.”

And Louisiana Inspector General Stephen Street described Quarles’ actions as “bold and shameless thievery.”

“Ms. Quarles showed an outrageous lack of concern for the taxpayers and the children those funds were supposed to benefit," Street says in the statement.

“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.”

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