KS Priest & NY Businessman Indicted in Scheme to Defraud Foster Care Program

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FILE PHOTO: American flag waves outside the U.S. Department of Justice Building in Washington

TOPEKA, KAN. – A federal grand jury in Topeka returned an indictment charging a Kansas priest and a New York businessman in connection with a scheme to defraud a foster care organization of $10 million. 

According to court documents, Robert Nelson Smith, 50, of Salina is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 15 counts of wire fraud, and one count of money laundering.

William Byrd Whymark, 50, of Mount Kisco, New York, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 10 counts of wire fraud, three counts of money laundering. 

Saint Francis Ministries (SFM) is a 501c(3) faith-based organization in Salina, Kansas, that provides foster care and social services in the states of Kansas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Texas. In 2018, the SFM board agreed to upgrade its IT systems, hardware, and software programs. As the SFM Chief Executive Officer, Robert Smith, an ordained Episcopal priest, entered into an agreement on behalf of SFM with a company owned by William Whymark. Smith is accused of approving and authorizing payments of fraudulent, overinflated invoices submitted by Whymark.

Smith is also accused of using SFM credit cards for personal, unauthorized expenditures.

Robert Smith is scheduled for his initial court appearance today at 1:30 p.m. before a U.S. Magistrate Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas. 

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The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is investigating the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christine Kenney and Skipper Jacobs are prosecuting the case.

An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.