AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – U.S. District Attorney Bobby Christine along with investigators with the GBI held a press conference Thursday morning, announcing prosecutions in COVID-19 disaster relief fraud.
Six individuals have been indicted on felony charges with nearly $400k seized in relation to the alleged fraudulent loan applications for pandemic relief funds.
The CARES Act was passed into law in March of this year to help provide loans to small businesses in an effort to keep them in business during the pandemic.
It’s been announced that these individuals reportedly exploited these programs for their own financial gain, seeking relief payments through false and fraudulent representations regarding their businesses’ existence, gross revenue or number of employees in order to receive Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) or Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.
The indictments allege that each of the defendants fraudulently obtained relief funds earmarked for small businesses that were suffering the negative economic impacts of the pandemic:
- Whitney Adwan Mack, 33, of Louisville, Ga., the alleged owner of four different businesses, is charged with wire fraud and misuse of a social security number for making false representations to the SBA regarding her businesses’ gross revenue, number of employees, and using a Social Security number that did not belong to her.
- Jada S. Nelson, 20, and Sonya Barnes, 41, both of Augusta, are charged with wire fraud and aiding and abetting for making false representations to the SBA regarding their businesses’ existence, gross revenue, and number of employees.
- Rose Mary Coleman, 57, of Augusta, is charged with wire fraud for making false representations to the SBA regarding her business’s gross revenue and number of employees.
- Orell Plummer, 41, of Augusta, is charged with wire fraud for making false representations to the SBA regarding the gross revenue and number of employees in his business.
- Darryl T. Williams, Sr., 52, of Augusta, is charged with wire fraud for making false representations to the SBA and to a financial lender regarding the gross revenue and number of employees of his businesses.
In addition, in a separate matter, the United States has filed a forfeiture complaint to recover $383,456.21 in funds that have been seized and are alleged to be the fruits of fraudulent SBA loan submissions.
“In the midst of the pandemic, millions of Americans were suffering devastating economic situations,” said United States Attorney Bobby L. Christine. “It’s unconscionable that some would seek to profit off of that devastation by creating fake businesses and fabricating financial information. This office will continue to devote significant resources to stopping those pandemic-profiteering fraudsters.”
U.S. Secret Service special agent Sean Sojack said the defendants were attempting to take money from small businesses that actually needed the funds.
” We are committed to furthering this investigation and helping the economic depression that’s happened in the Augusta area for businesses that were not able to receive these loans and were actually qualified for them, but the money was then depleted by these actors,” Sojack said.
This an active investigation and there could be more people involved in this same kind of fraud.
These cases are being investigated by the U.S. Secret Service, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, the Social Security Administration, the Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. These cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Patrick J. Schwedler, J. Thomas Clarkson, Jonathan A. Porter, and Jennifer A. Stanley, and the seizure and forfeiture action was brought by Assistant U.S. Attorney and Asset Recovery Unit Chief Xavier A. Cunningham.
Count on NewsChannel 6 for more updates to this story as they become available.
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