Baton Rouge Woman Sentenced to 48 Months in Federal Prison for Defrauding the PPP and EIDL Loan Programs and Laundering the Fraudulent Proceeds
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Louisiana
United States Attorney Ronald C. Gathe, Jr. announced that U.S. District Judge Brian A. Jackson sentenced Tiera R. Lands, age 31, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to 48 months in federal prison following her convictions for 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. The Court ordered Lands to pay $858,726.11 in restitution and forfeit an additional $138,212. Upon her release from federal prison, Lands will also be required to serve a 3-year term of supervised release. Previously in the investigation, the United States successfully seized a significant share of the proceeds from the offenses, a residence in Baton Rouge, and two vehicles, including a 2023 Mercedes-Benz G550 and a 2019 Infiniti Q60.
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 2021, she defrauded 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. In filing the false applications, Lands would inflate the purported businesses’ gross sales and payroll amounts, among other false statements, and she would submit fraudulent tax documents, all in an effort to deceive the lenders into believing that these were real businesses that qualified for Covid relief funds. Lands filed more than a dozen fraudulent EIDL and PPP applications, and, at yesterday’s sentencing, the Court determined that Lands’ wire fraud scheme caused a loss of more than $1.5 million.
Lands was also convicted of laundering some of the proceeds of her scheme, by receiving proceeds in cash, depositing the cash into her business bank account, and structuring deposits so as to conceal the source of the funds and avoid triggering transaction reporting requirements, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1956(a)(1)(B)(ii). For instance, on July 3, 2020, after receiving proceeds from one of the fraudulent applications, 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.
United States Attorney Ronald C. Gathe, Jr. stated, “This substantial sentence sends a clear message: our office, alongside our dedicated law enforcement partners, is firmly committed to prosecuting financial fraud, including non-violent crimes that breach public trust. Incarceration remains a viable consequence for those like Ms. Lands, who exploit government aid intended for businesses and individuals impacted by the pandemic. Additionally, we are vigorously investigating and prosecuting pandemic-related fraud. Our resolve is unyielding in holding accountable those who misuse taxpayer dollars meant for aiding those in need. This case stands as a testament to the extraordinary efforts of our talented prosecutors and law enforcement in upholding justice.”
This matter was investigated by the United States Secret Service, the Internal Revenue Service—Criminal Investigation, and the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office. The matter was prosecuted by AUSA Alan Stevens, who also serves as Senior Litigation Counsel for the United States Attorney’s Office, AUSA Brad Casey, and FAUSA April Leon Johnson.
Updated December 1, 2023