Knoxville Woman Sentenced To 57 Months In Prison For Defrauding COVID-19 Economic Relief Programs
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – On February 24, 2022, Porsha Tims Bush, 42, formerly of Knoxville, Tennessee, was sentenced to 57 months in prison by the Honorable Katherine A. Crytzer, in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Knoxville.
Bush pleaded guilty to engaging in more than $540,000 in fraud related to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act, in violation of Title 18 U.S.C. § 1343. Judge Crytzer ordered her to pay restitution in the amount of $471,621, a fine of $25,000, and to complete a term of supervised release of three years following her release from prison.
The CARES Act is a federal law enacted in March 2020 to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who are suffering from the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Two primary sources of relief provided by the CARES Act were the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (“EIDL”) program. PPP loans consisted of more than $640 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for payroll, mortgage interest, rent, and utilities. The EIDL program provided low-interest loans to business owners to pay for items like accounts payable and other bills that could not be paid as a result of COVID-19.
As set forth in the written plea agreement filed with the court, from March 30, 2020, to around the end of June 2020, Bush fraudulently applied for 10 loans totaling $547,286 through the PPP and EDIL programs. Bush submitted fraudulent applications under the names of six businesses that did not qualify for the COVID-19 relief funds that Bush sought. Bush submitted nine fraudulent applications to financial institutions seeking PPP funds and one fraudulent application to the Small Business Administration seeking EIDL funds. As part of her fraud scheme, Bush submitted false supporting records, including Internal Revenue Service documents, and made false statements about the number of individuals the companies employed, the revenue generated, and the wages paid. Bush also made false statements about the business entities and the intended use of the loan proceeds.
Bush then used the fraudulently obtained loan proceeds for unauthorized purposes, including to purchase clothes and electronics; to pay off personal debt; to pay for personal travel; and to fund her daily lifestyle.
For example, according to the plea agreement, on March 30, 2020, Bush submitted an online application to the Small Business Administration in the name of Enlightenment Family Care, Inc., seeking $150,000 in EIDL funds. On the application and in the supporting documents Bush submitted to the SBA—which were all false—Bush claimed that Enlightenment Family Care employed four individuals, generated $335,651 in gross revenue, incurred $34,500 in cost of goods sold, and paid wages of $45,651 in the twelve months preceding the COVID-19 pandemic. Bush fabricated a Profit and Loss Statement to substantiate her false claims.
According to court documents, after entering her guilty plea in August 2021, and while she was subject to presentence release conditions, Bush submitted false Internal Revenue Service forms requesting COVID-19 relief funds for three companies, none of which was entitled to the requested funds. Bush admitted to that conduct before sentencing in this case in a joint stipulation that was filed with the court.
This case is the result of an investigation conducted by the FBI.
Assistant United States Attorney William A. Roach, Jr., who also serves as the Office’s Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator, prosecuted the case.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.