Montgomery Man Sentenced to Prison and Ordered to Pay Nearly $370,000 for Schemes Targeting Elderly Victims
MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA – On January 16, 2024, a federal judge sentenced Zsa Zsa Bouvier Couch, 55, from Montgomery, Alabama, to 45 months in prison following her convictions for offenses related to fraudulent loans she received through the Paycheck Protection Program, announced Acting United States Attorney Jonathan S. Ross. In addition, the judge ordered that Couch serve three years of supervised release following her prison term. Federal inmates are not eligible for parole.
Previously, on September 27, 2023, a jury found Couch guilty on multiple counts of bank fraud, making false statements to a federally insured bank, and money laundering. Ultimately, Couch received a total of $609,687.47 of Paycheck Protection Program funds. Couch then distributed the money among herself, her husband, and other family members. Some of the money she used to purchase luxury vehicles.
The Paycheck Protection Program was authorized by the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a federal law enacted in March 2020 to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 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 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 and https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus/combatingfraud.
“Ms. Couch, like far too many others, took for her own benefit money intended to support individuals and businesses suffering the devastating effects of the pandemic,” stated Acting United States Attorney Ross. “My office is committed to identifying and prosecuting those who did or continue to do likewise.”
“The Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security Act was devised to assist people struggling through difficult financial times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Ms. Couch took advantage of the program to purchase lavish gifts for herself and family members,” stated FBI Special Agent in Charge Paul Brown over the Mobile, Alabama Division. “The 45 months imprisonment should send a clear message to anyone thinking of committing similar acts of fraud.”
“This sentencing is the outcome of the commitment IRS Criminal Investigation, and our law enforcement partners have in continuing to pursue and hold accountable those who committed fraud on a program created to help businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Demetrius Hardeman, Acting Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Atlanta Field Office.
The FBI, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, and the Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General, investigated this case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys J. Patrick Lamb and Joel Feil are prosecuting the case.
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 via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.