Former Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) employees Gene Tell of East Point, and Kristy Nicole Williams of Decatur, pleaded guilty today in federal district court to one count of Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud and two counts of Wire Fraud relating to a scheme to defraud the U.S. Department of Agriculture of approximately $600,000 dollars.

“The defendants in this case stole hundreds of thousands of dollars intended for some of our neediest citizens who rely on assistance to put food on the table,” said Attorney General Sam Olens. “These criminals were brought to justice as the result of the strong cooperative effort by state and federal officials. We will continue to work together to protect the interests of Georgians and our taxpayer dollars.”

Georgia Department of Human Services Commissioner Clyde L. Reese, who oversees DFCS, said, “Since becoming Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Human Services in January 2011, I was made aware of an ongoing investigation into the fraudulent activity by former DHS employees. It is my expectation that employees of this agency conduct themselves in a manner that is ethical and honest. An overwhelming majority of DHS employees serve Georgians in that manner. For those that do not, we will take action and work with law enforcement to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law.”

Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan said, “The thefts of public funds by state employees are priority investigations for the GBI. We will continue to partner with the Georgia Attorney General and the United States Attorney in investigating and prosecuting these crimes.”

According to the charges and other information presented in court, the State of Georgia converted from paper food stamps to use of electronic benefits transaction cards (“EBT”) in 1998 to meet federal guidelines. From November 2009 through March 2010, Tell and Williams, while employed as a Financial Independence Case Managers in the Dekalb County DFCS office, used their DFCS positions to fraudulently cause EBT accounts to be reactivated or created new EBT cards to be issued for the fraudulent accounts. As a result of this scheme, Tell and Williams received payment.

Tell and Williams were charged in a Criminal Information on May 4, 2011, on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and two counts of wire fraud. They pleaded guilty to all three counts. They could receive a maximum sentence of 60 years in prison and a fine of up to $750,000. In determining the actual sentence, the Court will consider the United States Sentencing Guidelines, which are not binding but provide appropriate sentencing ranges for most offenders.

Sentencing is scheduled for September 8, 2011, before United States District Judge Thomas W. Thrash Jr. This case is being investigated by U.S. Postal Inspectors Service, Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Georgia Department of Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General. Senior Assistant Attorney General Kimberly Assistant United States Attorney Bernita B. Malloy and L. Schwartz are prosecuting the case.