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Florida Prison Food Contractors Charged With Theft

Florida authorities have charged three people with stealing $1.5 million from the state prison system through a food procurement contract.

In 2008, the Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) signed a contract with US Foods for the company to handle FDOC’s food vendor program. Thomas J. Tomblin Jr., 63, was named as US Foods project manager, which required him to identify and vet potential vendors and act as the point of contact between the company and FDOC.

According to an arrest affidavit, Tomblin had become friends with Tyrone and Christy Walker after years in the food supply business, the relationships resulted in the Walkers paying Tomlin $15,700 a month “to initially promote and then protect MSF (M&S Foods) contract with USF (US Foods).”

The Walker’s business, M&S Foods, was picked by Walker to provide the meat to Florida prisons after the FDOC signed the October 23, 2008 contract with US Foods. M&S Foods contracted on November 11th, 2008, with Southeastern Protein Purveyors in Georgia to manufacture, package, and ship meat with M&S Foods’ label to Florida prisons.

The Walkers initially charged .01 cents per pound as a brokerage fee, but they increased the fee the next year to .06 cents per pound. According to the affidavit, they were able to steal $1.5 million by hiding the brokerage fee in invoices.  In return for the $723,157.78 kickback paid to Tomblin, he protected M&S Foods.

The protection entailed finding the bids of other companies unsatisfactory even where their bid was lower. The affidavit states that the owners of Southeastern Protein Purveyors were told by Tomblin that US Foods would not buy their meat if they voided their contract to cut the Walkers out as the middleman. The investigation began after FDOC prison officials began to complain that the meat was expensive, sub-par and lacking in quality. The investigation was conducted by FDOC, the state Office of Fiscal Integrity, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The cases against Tomblin and the Walkers will be prosecuted by a statewide prosecutor.

The charges lodged against Tomblin and the Walkers include scheme to defraud more than $50,000, conspiracy to commit grand theft and grand theft of more than $100,000.

Source: The Lakeland Ledger

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