ST. LOUIS – A Missouri nonprofit executive is accused of stealing millions of dollars from a program intended to feed low-income Missouri children, including some funds acquired during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Connie Bobo, 44, of St. Charles, serves as the executive director of the New Heights Community Resource Center, a nonprofit designed to provide meals to low-income, school-age children after school and during the summer.
A federal indictment revealed Wednesday accuses Bobo and New Heights of falsely claiming to have served at least three million meals to children between February 2019 and March 2022. The indictment alleges these were meals that New Heights neither actually purchased nor supplied.
The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) paid Bobo around $11 million. The indictment claims she spent around $4.3 million on personal expenses, including a $1 million home for herself, other homes for relatives and a $2.2 million commercial real estate investment.
Furthermore, the indictment claims Bobo spent funds on luxury goods and gave nearly $1.4 million to her romantic partner, who spent roughly $200,000 on a car.
“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.”
A federal grand jury indicted Bobo on three felony counts of wire fraud, three counts of aggravated identity theft and two counts of obstruction of an official proceeding amid the investigation.
New Heights and other nonprofits are required by the Missouri 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 are required to have a board that meets regularly and has the authority to hire and fire the executive director.
The indictment also claims Bobo submitted false management plans, falsely claimed that three people were serving on New Heights board and forged an invoice from a food vendor to falsely claim that New Heights had purchased hundreds of gallons of milk.
Anyone with further information on this case or about COVID-19-related fraud should contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud at 866-720-5721