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Pastor, wife plead guilty in low-income food program fraud

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A Chicago Christian center pastor and his wife have pleaded guilty to stealing thousands of dollars from a summer food program for low-income children.

Federal prosecutors in Springfield say 49-year-old Robbie Wilkerson of New Birth Christian Center and his wife 44-year-old Tasha Wilkerson, both of Oak Park, entered the pleas Tuesday. Three others also pleaded guilty in the same fraud scheme last week.

The Illinois State Board of Education runs the program with federal money. Prosecutors say Robbie Wilkerson was behind about $714,000 in false claims being submitted to the state. Federal officials say the claims represented about 267,000 meals served to children when actually fewer than 100,000 meals actually were served.

Prosecutors say the Wilkersons admitted embezzling as much as $100,000. The couple’s sentencing hearings are Oct. 6.