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Riverdale man gets 22 months in federal prison for fraud

ATLANTA — A Riverdale man has been sentenced to 22 months in federal prison for defrauding taxpayers through a scheme to forge vouchers issued to needy families.

Herbert Dix, 49, was sentenced to one year and 10 months incarceration, followed by three years of supervised release, 100 hours of community service, $14,100 restitution and a special assessment of $10,100, said U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates.

Dix was indicted in July 2012 on 18 counts of federal Women, Infants and Children fraud and 83 counts of possession of forged securities. In May, he pleaded guilty to all charges.

The Georgia Department of Public Health issues WIC vouchers to low income, at-risk families who can use the vouchers to purchase specified food items from authorized grocers. Contrary to federal law and state regulations, Dix and his employees paid cash for the WIC vouchers instead of accepting them as payment for allowable food items. The items include milk, infant formula, cheese, juice and cereal.

Yates said Dix stole from needy families and taxpayers.

“Families most in need rely on government funds for basic subsistence,” said Yates. “This defendant stole from the United States Department of Agriculture and taxpayers, depriving some of the neediest families of funds meant to help them survive.”

Yates said Dix owned and operated Spanks Quick Stop, a grocery store in Griffin. The store was authorized by Georgia to redeem WIC vouchers. On 18 separate occasions, an undercover law enforcement officer entered Spank’s Quick Stop, where Dix and his employees illegally redeemed blank WIC vouchers for cash, she said.

“Dix then filled in an amount on the vouchers significantly greater than what he paid for the vouchers and deposited the vouchers into his bank account,” said Yates. “In December 2010, federal, state and local law enforcement officers executed a search warrant at Spank’s and seized over 100 forged blank WIC vouchers. An analysis of Dix’s bank records revealed that between 2010 and 2011 he had defrauded the USDA out of more than $150,000.”

Georgia’s Department of Public Health Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald said she was pleased to get closure on the investigation that started three years ago.

“The enduring cooperation between the Georgia Department of Public Health, local law enforcement and the U.S. Attorney’s Office should send a clear signal to those contemplating WIC fraud,” she said. “We are committed to working together to detect and eliminate fraud, and to preserve precious funds for those who need it most.”