Six charged in WIC fraud scheme

PHILADELPHIA - October 15, 2009 The six worked for North Organized Regionally for Total Health (NORTH), a non-profit in Philadelphia that is a vendor of WIC services.

Investigators say the six worked as nutrition assistants for NORTH and were responsible for meeting with potential WIC recipients to interview, evaluate and determine whether they were eligible for benefits.

The suspects are alleged of using their access to the program produce fake checks, then would take them to community stores that would change the checks for cash instead of food, in violation of the rules.

"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 in a statement. "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."

Cotbett said that of 835 infants listed in the database, only 266 had participant charts. The remaining 569 charts were linked to the suspects:

-Mikiba Carter, 43, 1839 Conestoga St., Philadelphia
-Gail Polk, 53, 4819 N Warnock St., Philadelphia
-Takarra Scott, 31, 3419 Old York Road, Philadelphia
-Crystal Gray, 43, 1113 54th St., Philadelphia
-Melvin Jones, 40, 94 West Sharpnack St., Philadelphia
-Tasha Riddick, 37, 1717 Georges Lane, Philadelphia

  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 six were taken to Harrisburg to face charges there. If convicted they could each get up to seven years in prison.

Investigators say the NORTH program is on the up-and-up. NORTH adds it has been cooperating fully with the investigation.

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