Fugitive defendant who fled during trial convicted by federal jury for laundering millions of dollars stolen from fraud victims throughout the U.S.
ATLANTA - Clarence Boone, the former Senior Economic Development Manager of Stonecrest, pleaded guilty to conspiring with his wife, Lania Boone, and the former Mayor of Stonecrest, Jason Lary, to steal pandemic relief funds intended to support small businesses in Stonecrest.
“Boone and the former Mayor conspired to fraudulently line each other’s pockets with relief funds that were desperately needed by struggling businesses in Stonecrest,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “We will continue to uncover and prosecute those who exploit government positions and COVID relief programs to fuel their own greed.”
“CARES Act funds were intended to help people and businesses harmed by the pandemic, not to line the pockets of public officials entrusted to lead a community”, said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “The FBI will continue to work with our local, state, and federal partners to ensure stolen relief funds are returned to the public, and individuals involved in this type of fraud are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
“Like the rest of the country, the residents and businesses of Stonecrest community looked to its government for vital assistance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead of being a trustworthy steward of CARES Act funding, Clarence Boone and his co-conspirators schemed to misappropriate those funds to enrich themselves at the expense of those less fortunate. The DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office will continue to work with its law enforcement partners to bring these bad actors to justice,” said DeKalb County District Attorney Sherry Boston.
According to U.S. Attorney Buchanan, the charges and other information presented in court: In March 2020, the President signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act into law in response to the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the CARES Act, the federal government distributed COVID-19 relief funds to individual Americans, federal agencies, and state and local governments, including $125 million to DeKalb County. DeKalb County then disbursed $6.2 million of these relief funds to Stonecrest.
In September 2020, Jason Lary, the former Mayor of Stonecrest, allocated $5 million of the relief funds to a Small Business Program which would disburse relief funds based on applications submitted by local businesses. Lary placed the defendant, Clarence Boone, who was then Senior Economic Development Manager for Stonecrest, in charge of overseeing the Small Business Program. Lary also made the defendant’s wife, Lania Boone, the bookkeeper charged with distributing relief funds. The three conspired to steal and misappropriate relief funds intended for struggling businesses in Stonecrest.
On October 28, 2020, for example, Clarence Boone and Lary circumvented the application process and directed more than $50,000 to a business that they knew was not conducting any legitimate operations, and Lania Boone ultimately wrote the check to disburse the funds. Later, in March 2021, after learning of an investigation into the city’s handling of relief funds and knowing that the business had never filed paperwork to support the grant, Clarence Boone attempted to conceal the scheme by directing the business’s owner to submit an application that contained false statements, even though the Small Business Program had already ceased operations.
Later in December 2020 and January 2021, Clarence Boone coordinated with Lary and Lania Boone to use $108,155.52 of relief funds to pay off the mortgage on Lary’s lakefront home in Macon, Georgia, and used more than $7,600 of relief funds to pay college tuition, a meal plan, books, and rent for Clarence Boone’s son.
Clarence Boone, 60, of Decatur, Georgia, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit federal program theft and is scheduled to be sentenced on March 13, 2023. His coconspirators previously pleaded guilty and received the following sentences:
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Garrett L. Bradford, Chief of Public Integrity and Civil Rights, is prosecuting the case. Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Trevor Wilmot previously 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.
For further information please contact the U.S. Attorney’s Public Affairs Office at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The Internet address for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.