West Haven Woman involved in Scheme to Steal COVID-19 Relief Funds from the City Sentenced to Prison
Vanessa Roberts Avery, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, today announced that ANTRUM COSTON, 40, of New Haven, waived his right to be indicted and pleaded guilty yesterday before U.S. District Judge Stefan R. Underhill in Bridgeport to fraud, money laundering and drug offenses.
In March 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided emergency financial assistance to Americans suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. One source of relief provided by the CARES Act was the authorization of forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
According to court documents and statements made in court, in April 2021, Coston applied for and subsequently received two PPP loans, totaling $41,666, purportedly in relation to a cleaning business he operated. In association with the loan applications, Coston made multiple false statements, including that his business was established in 2018 when, in fact, no cleaning business associated with Coston had been formed in 2018, and that the business had total gross income for 2019 of $114,658 when, in fact, the business had not earned such income, and Coston was incarcerated for all of 2019. In February 2022, Coston sought forgiveness of both loans, falsely asserting in each instance that the funds had been spent on payroll costs.
On December 31, 2021, police stopped a car Coston was driving in West Haven. After initially stopping, Coston drove off, nearly striking the officer as he fled. Coston was found hiding in a parking lot a short distance away. A search of vehicle and person revealed distribution quantities of heroin/fentanyl, cocaine and crack cocaine, and more than $2,000 in cash. A related search of Coston’s residence revealed a ballistic vest, $2,790 in cash, a small quantity of crack, and narcotics paraphernalia.
Coston pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years, one count of money laundering, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years, and one count of possession with intent to distribute controlled substances, which carries a maximum term of imprisonment of 20 years. Judge Underhill scheduled sentencing for March 15, 2023.
Coston is released pending sentencing.
Coston’s criminal history includes multiple convictions, including two federal convictions. In 2004, Coston was convicted in federal court of possession of a firearm by a felon. He was sentenced to 37 months of imprisonment for that offense, and, in June 2007, received an additional 18 months of imprisonment for violating the conditions of his supervised release. In December 2017, Coston was sentenced to 40 months of imprisonment and three years of supervised release for gun and drug offenses. He was released from federal prison in April 2020, and was on supervised release when he committed the PPP loan fraud, money laundering and drug possession offenses.
This matter has been investigated by the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation Division, the Bureau of Alcohol. Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and the West Haven Police Department. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer R. Laraia.
Individuals with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 are encouraged to report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721, or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.