Former West Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office Employee Charged with Theft of Over $150,000 in Official Funds
United States Attorney Ronald C. Gathe, Jr. announced that Tiera R. Lands, age 30, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson to wire fraud and money laundering in connection with numerous false and fraudulent applications that she filed to obtain funds from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program in 2020 and 2021.
According to admissions made as part of her guilty plea, Lands owned and operated several businesses in Baton Rouge, including Virtuous Credit Solutions (“VCS”), and Virtuous Call Center, and through her businesses, she offered a variety of services, including credit counseling, tax preparation, and assistance obtaining business financing and loans. Beginning in or about March 2020, and continuing through April 2021, she devised a scheme to defraud the United States, through the United States Small Business Administration, and two participating PPP lenders, by filing numerous false and fraudulent applications for EIDL and PPP funds, both in the names of her own businesses and the names of other individuals and businesses located in the Baton Rouge area.
With respect to the EIDL program, after submitting one application the name of VCS and receiving $7,000, Lands submitted two additional applications for the same company, knowing that these applications contained false representations intended to induce the SBA to release approximately $300,000 in additional funds to which she was not entitled. Then, between June 30, 2020 and July 9, 2020, she submitted false EIDL applications in the names of three other businesses. All three of these applications contained false representations, which caused the SBA to disburse approximately $450,000 in funds to which neither Lands nor the named applicants were entitled.
Similarly, with respect to the PPP program, after submitting one application in the name of VCS and receiving approximately $20,000, Lands submitted two additional applications in which she made numerous false representations about her business. Lands also submitted at least seven more false PPP applications in the names of other individuals and businesses in which she inflated the businesses’ gross sales and payroll amounts, among other false statements. In connection with these applications, Lands submitted numerous fraudulent tax documents and payroll records, and she caused an authorized PPP lander to disburse nearly $250,000 in funds to which neither she nor the named applicants were entitled. In total, the false and fraudulent applications Lands admitted filing caused a total actual and intended loss of more than $1.1 million.
Lands also admitted that she would receive proceeds from her fraudulent activity in cash, and as she did so, she would deposit the cash into her business bank account and structure the deposits so as to conceal the source of the funds and avoid triggering transaction reporting requirements. For instance, on July 3, 2020, after receiving proceeds from fraudulent conduct, Lands deposited $5,900 in cash into VCS’ bank account, and, two minutes later, deposited another $5,100 in cash into the same account. Ten days later, between approximately 11:45 p.m. on July 14, 2020 and 1:17 a.m. on July 15, 2020—a span of approximately 92 minutes— Lands made five separate cash deposits into VCS’ bank account, totaling $11,000.
This matter is being investigated by the United States Secret Service, the Internal Revenue Service—Criminal Investigation, and the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office. The matter is prosecuted by AUSA Alan Stevens, who also serves as Senior Litigation Counsel for the United States Attorney’s Office, AUSA Brad Casey, and AUSA April Leon Johnson.