SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) — A Fort Stewart soldier faces up to five years in prison for her involvement in a COVID-19 relief scheme.
Dara Buck, 39, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, according to David H. Estes, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. Buck, along with others, illegally obtained millions from COVID-19 relief programs and federal student loan forgiveness, Estes said.
If convicted, the U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 will also have to pay financial penalties, restitution and three years of supervised release.
“Dara Buck swore an oath to protect and defend her country, and then engaged in a massive scheme to defraud the nation’s taxpayers,” Estes said. “She is now being held accountable for this fraud and betrayal, thanks to the diligence of our civilian and military law enforcement partners.”
Buck allegedly led a conspiracy to obtain illegal funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). She submitted more than 150 fraudulent loan applications to the Small Business Administration from August 2017 to May 2021, Estes said.
Buck raked in more than $3.5 million in counterfeit disbursements from banks to the conspiracy members. She was then paid by the conspirators, who also paid her to submit falsified U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs certifications for disability.
Those certifications were submitted to the U.S. Department of Education securing more than a dozen student loans worth more than $1 million, Estes said.
“CW2 Buck choose to dishonor the U.S. Military and defraud the American people she swore to protect and defend,” said Special Agent in Charge Cynthia A. Bruce, Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), Southeast Field Office. “DCIS with our investigative counterparts will continue to diligently investigate those who engage in corruption and other illegal acts.”
Estes urges anyone with information about COVID-19 fraud can call the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form.