Swainsboro woman sentenced for using fake business to get COVID-19 relief funds

Crime & Safety

SWAINSBORO, Ga. (WSAV) – An Emanuel County woman must serve nearly three years in prison and repay tens of thousands of dollars for using a fake business to gain COVID-19 relief funding, a judge ruled Thursday.

Tracy Kirkland, 41, Swainsboro, pleaded guilty earlier this year to wire fraud, said Acting U.S. Attorney David Estes of the Southern District of Georgia.

According to court documents and testimony, Kirkland in August 2020 received $66,400 in funding from a federal COVID-19 small business relief program by falsely claiming to own “Kirklands Hair N Beauty.”

She claimed the business employed three people in Swainsboro and suffered economic harm because of the pandemic.

Authorities found Kirkland used the small business loan to purchase a 2019 Dodge Charger and made large cash withdrawals, along with non-business-related purchases.

“Lying to gain access to economic stimulus funds will be met with justice,” said the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) OIG’s Eastern Region Special Agent in Charge Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite.

“Greed has no place in SBA’s programs that are intended to provide assistance to the nation’s small businesses struggling with the pandemic challenges,” McCall-Brathwaite continued. “I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners for their dedication and pursuit of justice.”

U.S. District Court Chief Judge J. Randal Hal sentenced Kirkland, a previously convicted felon on state probation, to 33 months in prison. She was also ordered to pay restitution of $66,400, forfeit the Dodge Charger and $16,250 and serve three years of supervised release following her prison sentence.

“Tracy Kirkland has a disturbing history of two decades as a petty thief, and was on state probation when she stepped her crimes up another notch by defrauding the COVID-19 relief program,” said Estes. “She is once again being held accountable for her criminal activity.”

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