Beware false prophets, indeed.
Jeannette Jives-Nealy, 50, styled herself as a “pastor prophetess” at Kingdom Dominion Worldwide Ministries in Memphis, the Tennessean reports.
But in June and July of 2014, Jives-Nealy and her family weren’t exactly doing God’s work — they were using the organization as a front to steal more than $162,000 in government funding, according to prosecutors. That funding was meant to feed poor and hungry children throughout the summer.
A jury convicted Jives-Nealy of theft over $60,000 and money laundering on Friday, Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich announced in a release Monday.
Jives-Nealy’s son’s name was used to secure the feeding program funding, prosecutors said. And a peek into Jives-Nealy’s criminal history may explain why: Jives-Nealy was sentenced to four years in prison and 10 years probation in Florida in 2007 after investigators discovered she and her sister bilked the state’s school voucher program out of more than $200,000, according to Florida’s chief financial officer.
A state official said in 2007 that Jives-Nealy’s Florida sentence “sent a strong message that stealing money from taxpayers is not acceptable.” She was still on probation from those charges when the Tennessee fraud began, prosecutors said, meaning she was barred from applying for state and federal funding.
Jives-Nealy had applied for $122,000 in funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Summer Food Service Program for Children in 2014, which the the Tennessee Department of Human Services operates in the state. That initial funding should have fed 33,800 meals to needy children every month in the summer, according to prosecutors.
But then Jives-Nealy managed to collect even more government money by telling program administrators she served more than 40,500 meals in June, according to prosecutors.
How many kids were actually fed?
There was “no credible documentation that Jives-Nealy served any meals to children,” according to prosecutors.
Bank records did not show any spending on food for children. The money was instead invested in Jives-Nealy’s travel and retail purchases, according to prosecutors. Jives-Nealy also made “numerous” cash withdrawals from ATMs and shifted nearly $25,000 to her personal savings account, according to a Tennessee Comptroller report.
After authorities caught on to the scheme and started asking questions, Jives-Nealy said that flooding had destroyed her accounting records. But auditors found no water damage — let alone the water-logged records she said she’d tossed in a dumpster — when they investigated, according to a release by the Shelby County District Attorney.
Jives-Nealy will be sentenced in August and faces at least eight years of prison or probation.