SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – A Fort Stewart soldier will spend three and a half years in prison for leading a fraud scheme involving COVID-19 relief programs and federal student loan forgiveness.

The 39-year-old Dara Buck, of Ladson, South Carolina, a U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 stationed at Fort Stewart, was sentenced to 42 months in prison for conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States. She was also ordered to pay restitution of $3,680,247 and serve three years of supervised release when she completes her prison term.

“While serving in the U.S. Army, Dara Buck engaged in a massive scheme to defraud the taxpayers of the nation she was sworn to serve,” said U.S. Attorney David Estes, with the Southern District of Georgia. “With our law enforcement partners, we are committed to identifying and holding accountable those who defraud COVID-19 relief programs to feed their self-serving greed.”

Estes said from August 2017 through May 2021, Buck led a conspiracy to fraudulently obtain funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and to secure the fraudulent discharge of federal student loans using falsified disability claims.

Buck would submit fraudulent PPP loan applications and directly receive funding, or she was paid by conspirators for submitting their applications, the U.S. attorney said. It resulted in more than $3 million in fraudulent bank disbursements to members of the conspiracy.

Estes said conspirators also paid Buck to submit falsified U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs certifications for total and permanent disability to the U.S. Department of Education. She fraudulently secured the discharge of more than a dozen student loans totaling more than $1 million.

“Those who choose to fraudulently utilize government assistance for their own personal gain undermine the efficacy and integrity of programs designed to support those who are dire need of government relief,” stated Special Agent in Charge Darrin Jones, Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), Southeast Field Office. “DCIS and our investigative partners will continue to hold those accountable who exploit these programs for selfish gain.”

Anyone with 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.