LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The investigation and prosecution of defrauding USDA of $11.5 came to an end today as the final, seventh, defendant pleading guilty for his role. The case surrounded the actions of four women at the center of the crime who had earlier entered guilty pleadings.

Thursday’s guilty pleading in federal court was made by Little Rock lawyer Everett Martindale, 75, for conspiracy to commit mail fraud. Martindale was a lawyer the four used in executing the fraud. He is the final person named in the case and was scheduled for trial Aug. 30.

On July 6 Lynda Charles, 72, of Hot Springs; Rosie Bryant, 74, of Colleyville, Texas; Delois Bryant, 75, of North Little Rock; and Brenda Sherpell, 72, of Gainesville, Texas pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and defraud the IRS.

On Aug. 2 Niki Charles, 49, of England, Arkansas and daughter of Lynda Charles, pleaded guilty conspiracy to commit mail fraud. In January 2021 tax preparer Jerry Green, pleaded guilty to his role in the case.

With Martindale’s Thursday pleading, all of those named in the case have entered a pleading. The group will be sentenced later.

The government charged the four women with a scheme which began in 2008 and ran through 2017 where they would recruit farmers to apply for USDA claims available through a class-action discrimination lawsuit. One hundred ninety-two claims were made by farmers the sisters recruited, most of which were accepted, for a total of $11.5 million. Each claim included a $1,500 attorney’s fee, which was split with Martindale, who falsified records that he had investigated the farmers claims.

The woman would also receive fees from the farmers from the settlement proceeds with Martindale’s help.

Niki Charles falsified affidavits further certifying a given farmer’s eligibility to receive money from USDA. Green falsified tax records to hide income from the fees for three of the four women, who used the money to purchase, for example, homes and cars.

As part of the settlement agreement, the woman will pay back the government the money used for their purchases.