Trio of fraudsters admit to buying fancy cars with meal money meant for Pennsylvania kids

Trio of fraudsters admit to buying fancy cars with meal money meant for Pennsylvania kids

A trio of fraudsters pleaded guilty to using money meant to feed Pennsylvania children to buy a line of luxury cars and fancy clothes, federal authorities said Thursday.

Charles Simpson and Paige Jackson, both of Dallas, and Tanisha Jackson, of Memphis, all admitted to setting up a sham nonprofit that obtained federal funds supposed to provide meals to underprivileged kids after school and over the summer.

But instead, the taxpayer funds went toward high-end clothes, air travel and hotel stays, and at least nine flashy cars — including a Bentley, two Land Rovers, two Maseratis, two Mercedes, a Hummer and a Porsche, the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania said Thursday.

Simpson and Tanisha Jackson also withdrew more than $10,000 from the nonprofit’s accounts more than a dozen times, the US Attorney’s Office said.

The trio grabbed up about $4 million between 2015 and 2019, the feds said.

Their Texas-based charity, Helping Others in Need, would get federal funds from Pennsylvania’s Department of Education to feed kids in that state.

Simpson, 44, and Tanisha Jackson, 49, used aliases because they had been excluded from feeding programs in other states, the US Attorney said. On some occasions, Tanisha Jackson posed as her daughter and co-defendant Paige Jackson, 30, when talking to state education officials.

Paige Jackson also used a fake name on occasion, according to authorities.

The defendants submitted reimbursement claims for hundreds of thousands of dollars under false pretenses, according to the US Attorney’s Office. The nonprofit either inflated the number of meals they served when they actually did feed some kids or sought funds for meals on days the feeding site didn’t operate at all, authorities said.

“It’s very disappointing when greed and selfishness take over and deprive our youth of much needed funding to provide them with nutritious meals,” said FBI Pittsburgh Special Agent in Charge Mike Nordwall when charges were announced last year. “To use a non-profit organization as a means to engage in fraud targeting (United States Department of Agriculture)-funded feeding programs is unacceptable. It’s also insulting to the teachers and educators working every day to make a better future for our children.”

Simpson and Tanisha Jackson agreed to pay the federal government $1.5 million in restitution and forfeit an additional $427,000 as part of their plea. Paige Jackson agreed to pay about $190,000 to the feds.

All three pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, which could result in max sentences of 20 years each. Simpson and Tanisha Jackson also copped to conspiracy to commit money laundering, a charge that has a max sentence of ten years.  

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