Florida attorney convicted at trial for role in COVID-19 fraud scheme
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Georgia
Defendant sent fake documents to get SBA funds for herself, others
SAVANNAH, GA: A Florida attorney has been convicted at trial for participating in a scheme to illegally obtain funding from a federal COVID-19 small business relief program.
Shaquandra Woods, 40, of Jacksonville, Fla., was convicted after a four-day trial in U.S. District Court on a charge of Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud, said Jill E. Steinberg, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. The conviction subjects Woods to a statutory penalty of up to 20 years in prison, along with substantial financial penalties and restitution, followed by a period of supervised release upon completion of any prison term. There is no parole in the federal system.
“Congress provided more than $6 billion in funding for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act as a lifeline in the midst of a generational catastrophe for struggling small businesses,” said U.S. Attorney Steinberg. “This year alone, our office has prosecuted defendants responsible for more than $11 million in CARES Act fraud, and with our law enforcement partners we continue to identify and hold accountable those who illegally enrich themselves through these programs.”
As authorized by the CARES Act, the Small Business Administration (SBA) provided Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) to eligible small businesses experiencing substantial financial interruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Woods, an attorney licensed to practice law in Florida and Georgia, completed at least nine applications for EIDL funding for herself and others, fabricating and submitting false documents to support the applications.
As a result of the fraudulent applications, Woods attempted to secure nearly $800,000 in COVID-19 funding for herself and others in the conspiracy and was successful in obtaining more than $300,000 for herself.
U.S. District Court Judge R. Stan Baker will schedule sentencing for Woods upon completion of a pre-sentence investigation by U.S. Probation Services.
“Fraud in and against the CARES Act amounts to theft from American taxpayers,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “The FBI, together with our law enforcement partners, will continue to investigate and prosecute those who take advantage of these programs designed to help struggling Americans.”
“Conspiring to fraudulently obtain federal pandemic relief funds that are meant to provide assistance to nation’s small businesses is unacceptable,” said SBA-OIG’s Eastern Region Special Agent-in-Charge Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite. “I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s office and our law enforcement partners for their support and dedication to pursuing justice in this case.”
The case is being investigated by the FBI and the Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General and prosecuted for the United States by Senior Litigation Counsel Jennifer G. Solari and Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan C. Grover.
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.
Barry L. Paschal, Public Affairs Officer: 912-652-4422
Updated December 12, 2023
Press Release Number: 105-23