CHARLESTON, South Carolina (WJBF) – Four South Carolina residents are now behind bars after pleading guilty to obtaining nearly $5 million in fraudulent PPP loans.

According to authorities, Lori Hammond, 53 of Summerville, Catherine Needham, 36, of Manning, Jontrell Wright, 35, of Holly Hill, and Christopher Conrad, 39, of Holly Hill, plead guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud.   

According to the United States Attorney’s office in the South Carolina District, from June 2020 to January 2021, Hammond caused multiple materially fraudulent PPP loan applications to be submitted to federally insured financial institutions on behalf of herself and her co-conspirators.

The evidence continues by stating that in these loan applications, Hammond used the identity of a deceased individual, misrepresented the number of employees and payroll expenses of the entities seeking the loans, attached fraudulent tax documents, and made numerous other false and misleading statements, and as part of the conspiracy, Hammond assisted Needham, Conrad, and Wright by filling out the loan application documents with materially false and fraudulent information and then submitting them to an individual in California.

Authorities say the individual in California would in turn submit the fraudulent loan applications to financial institutions in exchange for a fee, and based on the false representations and submissions in the applications, the approved PPP lenders funded the PPP loans.

According to the evidence presented in court, after the funds were deposited into the respective accounts, Hammond, Wright, Needham, and Conrad used the funds for non-qualifying, non-business-related purposes, including homes, property, cars, and other personal purchases.

Authorities say that in total, the members of the conspiracy fraudulently obtained $4,721,638.50 in PPP loan funds.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the defendants all face a maximum penalty of twenty years in federal prison, and they also face a fine of up to $250,000 in restitution and 3 years of supervision to follow the term of imprisonment.