Craig and Hillary Nash III, of Lake Charles, were sentenced Thursday in federal court before U.S. Judge Patricia Minaldi.
The brothers, along with their sister, Rosalyn Mary Hilliard, were indicted in May 2011 in a 26-count indictment charging conspiracy, wire fraud and food stamp fraud.
Craig Nash was sentenced to six and a half years in prison and ordered to pay $1.7 million in restitution.
Hillary Nash was sentenced to six months in prison and was ordered to pay $62,515 in restitution.
The indictments came after an investigation involving Goodfellas Grocery in Lake Charles.
U.S. Attorney Stephanie A. Finley says the total amount of money embezzled totaled $1,784,135.51. An earlier news release indicated the Goodfellas store redeemed more than $2.7 million dollars from the federal government program.
After the sentencing Finley said, "We hope it sends a message that we're watching. I mean, this is a serious sentence. We want them to know that we will vigorously prosecute this case. Our prosecutor in this case, Mr. Namie, along with the agents at USDA did a lot of good work and they've done a lot of hard work. They're going to continue to investigate these cases because we're not going to allow the fraud on the taxpayers."
"These are very serious crimes that affect the community as the judge said. These were taxpayer dollars. They were intended who really need, children, families who needed the benefits of the food stamp program. We're not going to allow the fraud on the community and the taxpayers. We also want the people who are going to these stores and getting cash and not getting food but getting beer and wine, we'll be looking at them as well," said Finley.
In court, Craig Nash seemed to try to justify his crimes saying he was trying to save his failing business. But Judge Patricia Minaldi didn't buy it in light of legal alternatives such as bankruptcy-- and that their lifestyle included luxury cars and property now being forfeited to the government. They are being allowed to keep their personal homes.
The Nash's attorney Todd Clemons says the brothers violated the law and are learning a tough lesson. "My clients, they made a mistake they were operating a business but they chose to violate the law. At the same time, I think they're good and decent people and I think they're being held accountable for their wrongdoing right now. But overall they're good men who made a bad mistake and I think the future is still bright for them. They're relatively young, I think they're going to bounce back from this and move on, " said Clemons.
It's not clear at this point what action will be taken against food stamp recipients who misused their benefits. Federal officials encourage citizens to report fraud if they become aware of it. The number is 1-800-424-9121.
The U.S. Attorney's news release can be found at the end of this story.