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Press Release

Three Former St. Louis Area Residents Accused of Obtaining 11 Fraudulent Pandemic Loans

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Missouri

ST. LOUIS – Three former residents of the St. Louis area accused of fraudulently obtaining $229,000 in pandemic loans in 2021 turned themselves in to authorities Monday in Fresno, California, where they now live.

Brianna L. Bell-Maple, 23, Jemyla A. Bell, 38, and Leiah A. Vaughn, 22, were each indicted in U.S. District Court in St. Louis March 27 on two felony counts of wire fraud. The indictment accuses them of submitting 11 fraudulent applications for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, which were intended to aid small businesses in paying and retaining employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The three falsely claimed in applications that the PPP loans were for women’s clothing businesses located at addresses in St. Louis and on Scott Air Force Base in Illinois when no such businesses existed, the indictment says. They also submitted false tax documents to support the loan applications, which yielded a total of $229,163 in PPP loans, the indictment says.

The indictment says they spent the money on their rent, shopping, dining, bills, travel, loan payments, pet store purchases and vehicles.

Charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and do not constitute proof of guilt.  Every defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Each wire fraud charge is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine or both prison and a fine.

The case was investigated by the FBI.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Clow is prosecuting the case.


Robert Patrick, Public Affairs Officer,

Updated April 15, 2024

Financial Fraud