A nonprofit official was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday and accused of stealing millions of dollars from a program intended to feed low-income Missouri children, including during the coronavirus pandemic.
Connie Bobo, 44, of St. Charles, Missouri, was indicted on three felony counts of wire fraud, three counts of aggravated identity theft, and two counts of obstruction of an official proceeding. Bobo is the executive director of New Heights Community Resource Center, which accepted money to provide meals to low-income, school-age children after school and during the summer.
The indictment accuses Bobo and New Heights of fraudulently claiming to have served at least three million meals to children between February 2019 and March 2022 – meals that New Heights neither actually purchased nor supplied. Relying on those false claims, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) paid Bobo about $11 million, the indictment says.
Bobo used $4.3 million to purchase a nearly $1 million home for herself, and other homes for relatives and to make a $2.2 million commercial real estate investment, the indictment says. She spent more on luxury goods and gave nearly $1.4 million to her romantic partner, who spent $211,907 on a 2017 Mercedes-Benz G550 Wagon, the indictment says. The indictment seeks the forfeiture of the real estate and the SUV.
“This indictment shows that we will aggressively pursue those who defraud a program intended to feed needy children, and those who exploited loopholes created by a global pandemic,” said U.S. Attorney Sayler A. Fleming. “We will seize the houses and luxury vehicles that they buy with those funds and we will seek punishment that is appropriate for the scale of the crime, which by law includes repayment of the funds. Anyone with information about COVID-19-related fraud should contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud at 866-720-5721.”
New Heights and other non-profits are required by DHSS’ Food and Nutrition Program for Children to demonstrate proper management standards and ensure fiscal responsibility. They have to submit budgets and annual management plans to DHSS and is required to have a board that meets regularly and has the authority to hire and fire the executive director.
The indictment says Bobo submitted false management plans and falsely claimed that three people were serving on the New Heights board. It says she submitted budgets that left out the money she was spending on real estate and luxury goods. The indictment also accuses Bobo of forging an invoice from a food vendor to falsely claim that New Heights had purchased hundreds of gallons of milk.