Two Additional Defendants in North Carolina Plead Guilty to National COVID-19 Fraud Scheme
“These defendants, along with their co-conspirators, chose to steal from a taxpayer funded program designed to help small businesses stay afloat in the face of a global and devastating pandemic,” said U.S. Attorney Michael Easley. “My office is continuing to investigate and prosecute those who used this lifeline to line their own pockets.”
According to the charged criminal information, the defendant conspired with Edward Whitaker, Schunda Coleman, and others to obtain a fraudulent PPP loan. Whitaker and Coleman pled guilty on January 19, 2023 for their role in operating a nation-wide scheme to help people across the country commit millions of dollars of PPP fraud.
According to charging documents and information summarized in court, Whitaker and Coleman created fraudulent supporting documents and applications for the PPP loans which they provided to the defendants in exchange for 25% of the total loan proceeds. The fraudulent applications falsified the number of employees and gross wages being paid prior to the COVID pandemic, in order to help qualify for the PPP loans. Following the disbursement of the PPP loans, Whitaker instructed each defendant as to how to make it appear that the PPP loans were being paid out to employees, when in reality the money was transferred back to the defendants. The fraudulent payroll records were then submitted to the Small Business Administration (SBA) to obtain 100% loan forgiveness.
Late last year, Quentin Jackson pled guilty in the same conspiracy which included the recruitment of numerous individuals in the Eastern District of North Carolina to use Whitaker and Coleman to obtain fraudulent PPP funds.
“The Paycheck Protection Program was designed to help small businesses facing financial difficulties during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Donald “Trey” Eakins, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge in the Charlotte Field Office. “Through our partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our federal law enforcement partners, IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agents will continue to aggressively pursue individuals who try to exploit federal relief programs for their personal gain.”
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who were economically suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act and additional appropriations authorized up to $649 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Financial institutions issued the PPP loans, which were guaranteed by the SBA.
Michael Easley, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, made the announcement after
Related court documents and information can be found on the website of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina or on PACER.