SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — A Telfair County woman faces five years in prison for illegally obtaining COVID-19 relief funds.
Shakeena Hamilton was sentenced to 60 months after pleading guilty to conspiracy an offense against the U.S. Government, said David H. Estes, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. The 34-year-old also has to pay more than $2.5 million in restitution and serve three years of supervised release.
Hamilton helped others illegally apply for relief under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Hamilton also received a kickback for the assistance, Estes said.
“Shakeena Hamilton not only perpetrated fraud and stole from the taxpayers of the United States, but assisted others in defrauding a program set up to assist small businesses struggling during the global pandemic,” Estes said.
The Southern District of Georgia has charged nearly 40 people for illegally obtaining relief since the CARES act was passed at the end of March 2020.
“Using SBA programs fraudulently undermines the spirit and true intent of bolstering the backbone of the nation’s economy – small businesses,” 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.”
Authorities urge anyone with information on attempted COVID fraud to call the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) at 866-720-5721 or submit a complaint online form.