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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of Washington

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Spokane Man Sentenced to Probation for COVID-19 Relief Fraud

Spokane, Washington – Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced today that Roshon Edward Thomas, age 42, of Spokane, was sentenced to a 5-year term of probation in federal court for fraudulently obtaining COVID-19 relief funding for small businesses. Senior United States District Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson announced the sentence, the first sentencing in a case brought by the Eastern Washington COVID-19 Fraud Strike Force created by U.S. Attorney Waldref earlier this year.

On March 27, 2020, the President signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act. The CARES Act provided a number of programs through which eligible small businesses could request and obtain relief funding intended to mitigate the economic impacts of the pandemic for small and local businesses. One such program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, provided low interest loans that could be deferred until the conclusion of the pandemic to provide “bridge” funding for small businesses to maintain their operations during shutdowns and other economic circumstances caused by the pandemic.

“COVID-19 relief programs were designed to lift up our community during crisis, and due to the number of people and businesses that requested funding, some deserving small businesses were not able to obtain funding to keep their businesses in operation,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref. “We created the Eastern Washington COVID-19 Fraud Strike Force because combatting pandemic-related fraud and holding those accountable who abused these programs is critical to protecting our small and local businesses, and the critical jobs and services that they provide for the community.”

In February 2022, U.S. Attorney Waldref and the U.S. Attorney’s Office began working with federal law enforcement agencies to create and launch a COVID-19 Fraud Strike Force to leverage partnerships between different agencies to aggressively investigate and prosecute fraud against COVID-19 relief programs in Eastern Washington. The Strike Force consists of agency representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Inspector General (OIG), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Department of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs OIG, General Services Administration OIG, Internal Revenue Service, Department of Energy OIG, Department of Homeland Security OIG, and others. Cases investigated and prosecuted by the Strike Force have resulted in numerous indictments, criminal prosecutions, and civil penalties, and recoveries of millions of dollars in fraudulently-obtained funds.

According to court documents and information disclosed during court proceedings, Thomas fraudulently obtained at least $54,900 in COVID-19 relief funding through two EIDL loans he obtained in July and August 2020 for a purported tattoo parlor and a clothing design company. In May 2022, Thomas pled guilty to submitting false and fraudulent claims to the United States, and admitted to using false and fraudulent information to obtain EIDL funding for both companies. As part of the sentence, Thomas will be supervised by the Court during the probation period and, among other conditions, will be required to maintain employment and to make full restitution of the funds that he fraudulently obtained.

“I commend the stellar investigative work on these cases performed by the Strike Force and especially in this case by SBA OIG, TIGTA, FBI, and HSI,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref. “We will continue to work together with our law enforcement partners to vigorously prosecute those who abuse and misuse COVID-19 relief funding, and to strengthen our communities by protecting our small and local businesses.”

Assistant United States Attorneys Dan Fruchter and Tyler H.L. Tornabene prosecuted this case on behalf of the United States.

Press Release Number: 
Updated August 16, 2022