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Augustan is indicted on theft charges

A 44-year-old Augusta man has been indicted by a federal grand jury on multiple counts of theft of money from a federally-funded, nonprofit organization, which operated in 11 area counties, including McDuffie and Warren.

First Assistant U.S. Attorney James Dr. Durham identified the defendant as Bernard Walker.

Grand jurors returned the indictment against Mr. Walker last Thursday in Savannah. He is accused of fraudulently obtaining checks worth tens of thousands of dollars from a federally-funded program headquartered in Augusta.

Federal authorities contend that Mr. Walker laundered the money through businesses in nearby Waynesboro.

The indictment specifically charges that Mr. Walker committed these crimes over a span of 2 1/2 years, while he was serving as a nutrition specialist for the Central Savannah River Area Economic Opportunity Authority, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Savannah.

At the time, Mr. Walker was responsible for providing meals for low-income children enrolled in Head Start programs in 11 counties of the CSRA. Aside from McDuffie and Warren counties, the other counties included: Richmond, Columbia, Jefferson, Lincoln, Glascock, Burke, Jenkins, Screven and Emanuel.

"Each year, the federal government provides millions of dollars to Head Start programs in the Augusta, Ga. area," U.S. Attorney Edward J. Tarver said in prepared statements. "Taxpayers have a right to expect that this money will be used for its intended purpose; in this case, providing meals to disadvantaged children. The indictment alleges that this defendant abused his position to steal federal funds and used them for his own benefit to purchase, among other things, automobiles and furniture. This indictment demonstrates that the U.S. Attorney's Office will use every available resource to put those engage in fraudulent behavior in Time-Out."

Karen Citizen-Wilcox, special agent in-charge of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General of the Atlanta region, said her office "stands firmly committed to diligently pursuing the prosecution of individuals who defraud the department out of funds intended to provide nutritious meals for eligible low-income children.

This indictment sends a strong message that fraud for greed, personal gain and profit will not be tolerated at the expense of taxpayers."

Mr. Walker is charged with seven counts of theft -- each one carrying a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, as well as seven counts of money laundering -- each of which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

In addition, the indictment also seeks the forfeiture of the proceeds of Mr. Walker's crimes.

The indictment against Mr. Walker stems from an investigation conducted by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General.

Assistant U.S. Attorney David M. Stewart will be prosecuting the case for the government.

Web posted on Thursday, October 21, 2010

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