In Little Rock, Arkansas, seven individuals have been charged with defrauding the U.S. Department of Agriculture out of over $11.5 million. Rosie Bryant, Delois Bryant, Brenda Sherpell, Lynda Charles—all sisters—and Niki Charles, Lynda’s daughter, allegedly recruited farmers who are black, Hispanic, or female and asked them to pretend they were being discriminated against by the USDA. A tax preparer and a lawyer are also involved. It is not clear whether all involved parties have acquired legal representation.
Civil asset forfeiture is a legal procedure whereby police are able to take possession of an individual’s property if that property is suspect of being involved in a crime. In most states, no criminal conviction is required before property is seized. To seize assets in Arkansas, police only need to show that a “preponderance of the evidence” indicates the property was involved in a crime. This standard is far below the “beyond a reasonable doubt” that is required in criminal cases.
After an investigation by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Marshals Service has carried out the seizure of more than $800,000-worth of FDA-regulated goods from J & L Grocery in Alma, Arkansas.
The seizures occurred on November 7 and 8 at the J & L Grocery retail store and warehouse locations in the north of Alma. J & L Grocery is a discount or “salvage” grocery store. Salvage grocery stores sell products considered unfit for sale by traditional retailers. For example, the products may be near their expiration, packaging may be damaged, or items may have been salvaged from truck wrecks.