A St. Louis pharmacist, convicted two weeks ago of falsely reporting federal bank deposits for food stamp sales totalling $1.2 million, today was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined $30.000.
The pharmacist, Lee A. Lanier, 39, was convicted May 14 of falsely reporting that he paid $1.2 million for U.S. Department of Agriculture foods stamps when he had deposited only a fraction of that amount with Federal Reserve Bank here.
State and federal investigators said the shortage was one of the largest ever discovered in the food stamp program.
In Washington, Robert E. Magee, deputy director of Agriculture's Office of Investigations, said: "We think strict sentences like this will have the deterrent effect that might prevent future violations" that cheat taxpayers.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge James H. Meredith sentenced Lanier to four years imprisonment and fined him $10,000 on each of three charges of making a false statement to a federal agency.
Authorities said that Lanier would have to serve four years before he becomes eligible for parole.
After the sentence was announced, Lanier said, "I have no comment. I'm too shocked . . . at a later date, I'll talk to everybody."
Lanier's attorney said the conviction to everybody."
Lanier's attorney said the conviction and the sentence imposed by Meredith will be appealed.
Lanier remained free on $5,000 bond pending the outcome of his appeal.
Lanier was indicted in March after a lengthy investigation of a $1,012,000 shortage in payments for his firm, Money Town, Inc., to the Federal Reserve Bank here. Money Town, which began as a tiny one-outlet check-cashing and money-order business, expanded to 10 offices after it began to handle food stamps.
The missing money has not been foound, nor has anyone been charged in its disappearance.
Prosecutors said they did not have sufficient evidence to support fraud or embezzlement indictments in connection with the disappearance of the money.