MACON, Ga. — The founders of Angel Food Ministries have pleaded not guilty to fraud and money laundering charges in federal court.
Joe and Linda Wingo pleaded not guilty to all charges on Thursday.
The indictment charges that they used the charity’s funds for personal use, including purchasing real estate and supporting a candidate for Walton County sheriff.
Angel Food Ministries was based in Monroe, Ga. It provided discounted groceries to needy families across the U.S.
Families typically ordered multimeal boxes of meatballs, ham and other staples, spending roughly $30 for an estimated $65 worth of groceries, Angel Food has said in the past. Families then collected boxes at churches that were rewarded with at least $1 for every box delivered.
The organization shut down its operations in September. The organization’s offices were searched by the FBI in 2009.
WMAZ-TV reported that U.S. Magistrate Court Judge Charles Weigle denied a request for a court-appointed attorney for Joe Wingo.
He said his decision was based on substantial, taxable income accumulated by the Wingos. “It’s hard for me to believe you’ve spent all of that money in three years,” he said.
Ronald Houser, an attorney representing Linda Wingo, argued that the couple’s income is being spent on her representation.
The judge said he didn’t see where the couple had separated their assets.
Two other ministry officials charged in the case pleaded not guilty this week to fraud charges.