City worker sentenced to 27 months, fined $250,000 in food-stamp fraud

November 11, 1996|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,SUN STAFF

While James E. Bryant Jr. worked as a driver for the city education department, he would often stop in his city car to check on his corner grocery store in West Baltimore -- where he was bilking the federal government of $700,000 in food stamp funds.

Friday, an angry U.S. District Judge Andre Davis sentenced Bryant to 27 months in prison and ordered him to pay $250,000 in restitution, five times more than the minimum recommended by prosecutors.

Bryant, 38, asked the judge for leniency in ordering restitution, saying he "got caught up in the money" and now realizes he has thrown away 17 years of his life -- the time he has spent working for the city school system, where he is still listed as an employee.

But Davis gave Bryant a thundering lecture, telling him, "This isn't about you throwing away 17 years of your life. This was you bringing down the community."

Bryant, who lives in East Baltimore, owned the tiny McKean and Westwood Grocery at 1740 McKean Ave. until July.

Before Bryant's store was approved to accept food stamps, he reported having only $21,000 a year in food sales. By the time his fraud was at its height, he was charging the federal government for as much as $100,000 a month in phony groceries.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan M. Ringler asked the judge to order Bryant to pay at least $49,000 in restitution. But Davis, noting that Bryant personally benefited from more than $300,000 in fraudulent funds, ordered the maximum fine of $250,000, to be paid when he is released from prison -- at $1,000 a month.

Pub Date: 11/11/96

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