Minden non-profit director pleads guilty to embezzlement, using state funds for Christmas party

Louisiana

MINDEN, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A Minden woman has pleaded guilty to embezzling government funds and using money meant for child nutrition programs to throw an expensive Christmas party for employees of a non-profit.

Teressia Garner, 60, of Minden, was the director and registered agent of Safe Haven Development, Inc., a non-profit corporation. Safe Haven entered into an agreement with the Louisiana Department of Education’s Division of Nutrition Support to participate in several Child Nutrition Programs, including the Child and Adult Care Food Program and the Summer Food Nutrition Program.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Safe Haven received federal funding and participated in these programs from 2011 through 2015 by providing meals to those children and adults that are enrolled in participating child-care centers, adult daycare centers, and daycare homes.

On Dec. 15, 2015, Garner planned a Christmas party for the employees of Safe Haven at the Wyndham Garden Shreveport.

Garner paid for the party, totaling $9,578.48 with program funds that had been deposited into the Safe Haven business account.

“Ms. Garner’s greed was evident, stealing money designated for the USDA Summer Food Service and Child and Adult Care Food Programs, which provide nutritious meals for children and adults in low-income families, to pay her own personal expenses. Ms. Garner’s guilty plea sends a clear message and will be a deterrent to others who would attempt to defraud American taxpayers”, FBI New Orleans Special Agent, Douglas Williams said.

The party included the expense of renting a large ballroom, catered food, and an open bar serving alcohol. The program funds used for the party were intended to be used for the Child Nutrition Programs and not for entertainment purposes.

Garner pleaded guilty to theft of government funds in the United States District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, Shreveport Division. She faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

The District Judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

U.S. District Judge Donald E. Walter will sentence Garner at 10 a.m. on Oct. 13 in Shreveport.

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