SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A Cotton Valley woman was sentenced to nearly six years in prison Thursday for taking more than $1 million from a federal feeding program.
According to the U.S. District Attorney David C. Joseph, U.S. District Judge Donald E. Walter sentenced 59-year-old Myrna Thomas Quarles to serve 71 months in federal prison. Judge Walter also sentenced Quarles to pay $1,460,541.41 in restitution, and to three years of probation following her served time.
Federal prosecutors say that Myrna Quarles pleaded guilty in September 2019 to the theft of government property that was meant to provide meals for economically disadvantaged children during the summer months when they were not in school.
“Quarles stole from a taxpayer-funded program meant to provide meals to children,” U.S. Attorney Joseph said in a released statement Thursday.
“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.
“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 DA’s office says Quarles was the director of Greater Horizons Developmental Services, a non-profit headquartered in Webster Parish. Greater Horizons received reimbursements from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Feeding Service Program, which was administered through the State of Louisiana. From 2014 through 2015, Greater Horizons submitted reimbursement claims that greatly inflated the number of eligible meals provided.
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. 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.
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.