Pastor gets 3 years in prison for defrauding food program for low-income children

CHICAGO (WSVN) — A Chicago pastor will spend the next three years behind bars after pleading guilty to defrauding a food program for low-income children.

According to the U.S Department of Justice, 50-year-old Robby Wilkerson pleaded guilty in May to wire fraud and money laundering. Fox 32 reports that he was sentenced Friday to 37 months in prison and ordered to pay $440,964 in restitution.

Wilkerson’s wife Tasha also pleaded guilty to theft of government funds. She was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison, and ordered to pay $40,001 in restitution, prosecutors said.

Robbie Wilkerson founded the New Birth Christian Center in Chicago, operating a summer food program between 2008 and 2010 to provide meals to low-income students when school was not in session.

He claimed the program provided 267,000 meals to low-income children; in reality, his church served under 100,000 meals. Wilkerson admitted in court that he submitted $714,000 in false or fraudulent claims to the Illinois State Board of Education.

The justice department said the couple used nearly $500,000 of the program’s money on personal expenses, and embezzled over $100,000, using the money to buy real estate in Chicago and Memphis, Tennessee.

Three other church officials pleaded guilty to theft of government funds, prosecutors said.

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