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Welfare fraud suspects enter pleas

By Xavier Smith xsmith@lebanondemocrat.com • Dec 15, 2015 at 3:02 PM

A fired Lebanon Department of Human Services worker and her alleged accomplice, both accused of food stamp fraud, entered a plea Thursday in Wilson County criminal court during an arraignment hearing. 

Tracey Deshaye Timbs, 43, of Pleasant Shade, and Matthew Scott Nichols, 31, of Gallatin, both pleaded not guilty Thursday morning, and a discussion hearing date was set for each. Both face charges after Tennessee Bureau of Investigation agents started an investigation April 11 at the request of District Attorney Tommy Thompson and DHS officials.

Both Timbs and Nichols waived an open court reading of the indictment. Timbs is scheduled to appear again in court Sept. 8, and Nichols’ next court date is Sept. 15 for attorneys to discuss the case. 

In early 2014, DHS officials believed possible fraudulent SNAP – previously referred to as food stamp – accounts were created and sold for profit out of its Lebanon office on Legends Drive, where Timbs worked as an eligibility counselor. Investigators further found Timbs apparently tampered with government records to create the accounts, producing EBT cards and identifying information, which were subsequently mailed to several people, including Nichols, in exchange for cash and drugs.

On July 18, investigators said they identified more than 40 false accounts with more than $150,000 in benefits distributed fraudulently. Department of Human Services officials fired Timbs from her job.

On July 14, a Wilson County grand jury indicted Timbs on 10 counts of identity theft trafficking, one count of official misconduct, one count of welfare fraud, one count of fraudulent receipt of temporary assistance and one count of tampering with government records.

The grand jury indicted Nichols on three counts of food stamp fraud and three counts of fraudulent receipt of temporary assistance.  

 Both Timbs and Nichols were booked in at the Wilson County Jail on July 18. Timbs was released on $10,000 bond. Nichols was released on $20,000 bond. 

The investigation, alongside the DHS Office of Investigations, continues with the possibility of additional suspects and charges in the future.

Jacky Bellar, of Carthage, represents Timbs, and Ensley Hagan, of Lebanon is Nichols’ attorney. 

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