Emanuel Co. woman pleads guilty to COVID-relief fraud

Georgia News
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STATESBORO, Ga. (WSAV) – An Emanuel County woman faces prison time and a $1 million fine after admitting to creating a fake business and using it to received COVID-19 relief funding.

Tracy Kirkland, 40, of Swainsboro, pleaded guilty to wire fraud, according to Acting U.S. Attorney David H. Estes, for the Southern District of Georgia.

Estes said as a result of the plea, Kirkland — a previously convicted felon — agrees to repay $66,500 and forfeit both a 2019 Dodge Charger and $16,250. After any prison term, she could be required to spend up to three years on supervised release.

“Congress provided funding under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Security (CARES) Act specifically to help financially struggling businesses during the pandemic,” Estes stated. “Tracy Kirkland stole from those funds, and she is being held accountable for that theft.”

Citing court documents and testimony, Estes said Kirkland received a $66,400 loan in August 2020 under the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program comprised of funds appropriated by the CARES Act.

She claimed a business she owned, “Kirklands Hair N Beauty” — with three employees — suffered economic harm because of the pandemic.

According to Estes, Kirkland received the SBA loan into her personal account and used the funds to buy a Dodge Charger, make large cash withdrawals from her account and make other non-business-related purchases.

The SBA Office of Inspector General is investigating the case with assistance from the Swainsboro Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Ammunition. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Steven H. Lee and Asset Recovery Unit Chief Xavier A. Cunningham are prosecuting.

“We commend the work of the U.S. Attorney in prosecuting this case, involving SBA’s EIDL Program, which is designed to provide much-needed economic relief to small businesses that are greatly affected by the current pandemic,” SBA’s General Counsel Peggy Delinois Hamilton stated.

“Such fraud hurts legitimate small businesses that need financial assistance,” she added. “We appreciate the work of our Inspector General and other law enforcement partners to uncover and prosecute individuals who commit fraud in the CARES Act loan programs.”

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