SAVANNAH, Ga (WSAV) — The number of arrests begins to rise as nearly 40 individuals have been charged with fraud so far in Southern District. Today, 5 new defendants are being charged with illegally obtaining pandemic relief funds.
Since the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed in March 2020, and it has funded more than $6.5 billion, the Southern District of Georgia U.S. Attorney’s Office has federally charged about 40 defendants for committing fraud by obtaining Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) funding or Economic Injury Disaster Loans through Small Business Administration.
“The CARES Act provided a vital safety net for small businesses during months of pandemic-related disruptions,” said David H. Estes, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. “In coordination with our law enforcement partners, we continue to identify and hold accountable those who obtained funding to which they weren’t entitled and in violation of the law.”
Defendants recently charged in the Southern District include:
- Roshawnda Richardson, 29, of Waverly, Ga., pled guilty to an Information charging her with Wire Fraud. Richardson admitted participating in a scheme to fraudulently obtain PPP funding for two businesses.
- Jerrod Bellamy, 25, of Savannah, pled guilty to an Information charging him with Conspiracy and Filing a False Tax Return. Bellamy admitted he provided false information in his personal tax return, fraudulently obtained a PPP loan, and conspired with others to fraudulently obtain PPP loans for them. He also received more than $50,000 in kickbacks for helping co-conspirators fraudulently obtain COVID-19 relief funding.
- Lesley Anne McCray, 31, of Fort Stewart, is charged via Information alleging she committed Wire Fraud. The Information alleges she provided false information to obtain PPP funding.
- Christopher Sylvester, 29, of Columbia, S.C., is charged via Information with Wire Fraud. Sylvester is alleged to have provided false information in a PPP application to receive relief funding.
- Monique Stoddart, 30, of Hinesville, Ga., is charged via Information with Wire Fraud. Stoddart is alleged to have provided fraudulent information and false tax forms in an application to receive PPP funding.
Investigators say that the defendants face penalities of up to 20 years in prison. As alleged in the charges and reflected in testimony and court documents, the fraudulent loan applications in these cases combined to cause lenders to pay nearly $400,000 to defendants and co-conspirators.
Criminal indictments and informations contain only charges; defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
“Army CID takes all attempts at committing fraud against the federal government by active duty or Department of the Army civilians seriously. This case is an example of the lengths our investigators and law enforcement partners will go to bring perpetrators to justice,” said Acting Resident Agent in Charge Jennifer Coleman of the Southeast Fraud Resident Agency, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division.
“Providing false information to gain access to SBA programs intended for victims of disasters is unacceptable,” said SBA OIG’s Eastern Region Special Agent in Charge Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite. “OIG is focused on rooting out bad actors in these vital SBA programs. I want to thank the Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners for their dedication and commitment to seeing justice served.”
“IRS-Criminal Investigation is dedicated to ensuring COVID-19 relief funds are going to those who really need it,” said IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge James E. Dorsey. “We have a financial expertise that assists our law enforcement partners in these types of cases. Together we will continue to show the public the value we bring to our community ensuring these federal relief funds are going to the real small business owners in need, not to greedy criminals.”
“The U.S. Secret Service along with our law enforcement partners remain committed in the fight to defend the nation’s financial security, and we stand ready to protect our economic infrastructure from those that choose to feloniously exploit it,” said Craig Reno, Resident Agent in Charge of the Savannah Resident Office.” The Secret Service and our law enforcement partners will investigate and criminally prosecute such fraud to the fullest extent of the law.”
Each case is being investigated by the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division, the Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General, IRS Criminal Investigations, and the U.S. Secret Service, and prosecuted for the United States by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia.
Anyone who has information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.