Corbett Announces Charges Against Six Individuals, $375,000 Stolen from WIC Program

PHILADELPHIA – Six former employees of North Organized Regionally for Total Health, Inc. (NORTH) were charged today with using their personal employee access codes to create fraudulent Women, Infant and Children (WIC) checks and passing them at area supermarkets for cash.

Attorney General Tom Corbett said that the defendants worked at NORTH, a non-profit agency in Philadelphia that is a vendor of WIC services. WIC is an outreach program provided by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and funded by the United States Department of Agriculture.

Corbett said that the WIC program provides assistance for new mothers and their children in the form of food benefits. Targeted recipients of the program are typically low-income women and children who are at risk nutritionally.

The WIC program also includes nutrition education and counseling, screening and referrals for other health or welfare agencies.

Evidence and testimony regarding the case was presented to a statewide investigating grand jury, which recommended the criminal charges being filed today.

Corbett said that the defendants worked as nutrition assistants for NORTH and were responsible for meeting with potential WIC recipients to interview, evaluate and determine whether or not the individual was eligible for program benefits.

Once an individual is approved, nutrition assistants tailor a food package to meet their needs. WIC recipients receive checks that can be redeemed at participating WIC stores for food, not cash.

Corbett said that specific stores located throughout southeastern Pennsylvania allegedly dispersed cash for the WIC checks instead of food, even though participating WIC stores received training on the program and were fully aware of how it operated.

“These WIC employees personally cashed the checks in community stores for money instead of baby food; and the fake checks were later redeemed with the Department of Treasury,” Corbett said. “More than $375,000 of taxpayer money that was intended for needy mothers and their young children was lost as a result of this scheme.”

Corbett said that a statewide query revealed NORTH office locations had 835 infants listed in their database without a corresponding mother. Of those participants, only 266 had the required participant charts.

According to the grand jury, the remaining 569 missing charts were linked to Mikiba Carter, Gail Polk, Takarra Scott, Crystal Gray, Melvin Jones and Tasha Riddick, who allegedly used their computers and their personal NORTH employee access codes to create the fraudulent WIC checks.

The grand jury found that Carter was the most adept at creating these fraudulent checks and taught other employees how to make fake checks of their own.

The grand jury revealed that Carter paid other employees for fake checks spending as much as $250 for 30. Carter allegedly negotiated these checks for cash and sometimes negotiated them for baby formula, which she sold on the street.

“The WIC program is the largest public health program in the United States,” Corbett said. “Twenty-two percent of the WIC recipients in Pennsylvania are from the Philadelphia area and those deserving individuals were cheated out of thousands of dollars in services to illegally benefit a few.”

Corbett said the defendants will be prosecuted in Dauphin County by Deputy Attorney General William Davis Jr., of the Attorney General’s Criminal Prosecutions Section.

Corbett thanked the Office of General Counsel and the Pennsylvania Department of Health for their assistance with the investigation.

A complete list of the defendants and the charges against them is below.

–Mikiba Carter, 43, 1839 Conestoga St., Philadelphia, is charged with one count of theft by unlawful taking, one count of theft by deception, one count of receiving stolen property, one count of tampering with public records or information, and one count of criminal conspiracy.

–Gail Polk, 53, 4819 N Warnock St., Philadelphia, is charged with one count of theft by unlawful taking, one count of theft by deception, one count of receiving stolen property, one count of tampering with public records or information and one count of criminal conspiracy.

–Takarra Scott, 31, 3419 Old York Road, Philadelphia, is charged with one count of theft by unlawful taking, one count of theft by deception, one count of receiving stolen property, one count of tampering with public records or information and one count of criminal conspiracy.

–Crystal Gray, 43, 1113 54th St., Philadelphia, is charged with one count of theft by unlawful taking, one count of theft by deception, one count of receiving stolen property, one count of tampering with public records or information and one count of criminal conspiracy.

–Melvin Jones, 40, 94 West Sharpnack St., Philadelphia, is charged with one count of theft by unlawful taking, one count of theft by deception, one count of receiving stolen property, one count of tampering with public records or information and one count of criminal conspiracy.

–Tasha Riddick, 37, 1717 Georges Lane, Philadelphia, is charged with one count of theft by unlawful taking, one count of theft by deception, one count of receiving stolen property, one count of tampering with public records or information and one count of criminal conspiracy.

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