SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — Four people were charged in COVID-19 relief fraud schemes for misusing funds granted through government COVID relief programs.

Three pleaded guilty already and face up to 30 years in prison along with fines, according to David H. Estes, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.

“Congress approved significant funding to assist small businesses during the early shutdowns and financial challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Estes said. “With our law enforcement partners, we will identify and hold accountable those who misuse this funding to satisfy their own greed at the expense of taxpayers.”

The following pleaded guilty with the final awaiting proceedings.

  • Shakeena Hamilton, 34, of McRae, Ga., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit an offense against the U.S. government, Estes said. Hamilton admitted to helping others fraudulently apply for PPP relief, raking in more than $2.3 million to banks for other conspirators. Hamilton received more than $300,000 from the co-conspirators in return.
  • Anissa Carr, 22 and her husband, Montrez Burns, 24, both of Hinesville, both pleaded guilty to wire fraud. They are awaiting sentencing, Estes said. The pair admitted to fraudulently obtaining tens of thousands of dollars in PPP funding for fictitious businesses.
  • Anatoly Rybin, 41, of Richmond Hill, Ga., was charged via information with false statement on a loan application to the SBA for an EIDL loan with more than $110,000, Estes said. Rybin awaits further sentencing.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed in March 2020, allowing the Small Business Administration (SBA) to supply loans keeping the doors open for small businesses during the pandemic.

“As a partner with the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force, we will not allow individuals to prey on the CARES Act programs created to assist American citizens during this national emergency,” said Resident Agent-in-Charge, Todd Outlaw of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division’s Major Procurement Atlanta Fraud Resident Agency. “These guilty pleas are a testament of our dedication and partnership with other federal agencies to ensure critical benefit programs are protected.”

The Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force in May 2021 to prevent pandemic-related fraud. Anyone with information about COVID fraud is urged to call the DOJ’s National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at 866-720-5721 or through the NCDF Web Complaint Form.