Four more defendants charged in COVID-19 fraud schemes
Southern District of Georgia continues prosecutions targeting millions in pandemic relief fraud
SAVANNAH, GA: Four people have been charged with participating in COVID-19 relief fraud schemes, and three of them have already pled guilty.
The defendants all are charged via Informations as the result of ongoing investigations into misuse of the U.S. government’s COVID-19 financial relief programs, said David H. Estes, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. The guilty pleas subject the defendants to statutory sentences of up to 30 years in prison, along with substantial amounts of restitution and fines, followed by a period of supervised release. There is no parole in the federal system.
“Congress approved significant funding to assist small businesses during the early shutdowns and financial challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said U.S. Attorney Estes. “With our law enforcement partners, we will identify and hold accountable those who misuse this funding to satisfy their own greed at the expense of taxpayers.”
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed into law in March 2020. The CARES Act authorized the Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide and/or guarantee loans to keep small businesses afloat during the pandemic’s financial challenges. Three defendants admitted exploiting these programs for their own financial gain, while a fourth awaits further court proceedings. All of the defendants admitted or are accused of seeking relief payments through false and fraudulent representations regarding their businesses, real or fictitious, in order to receive Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and/or Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.
The defendants include:
- Shakeena Hamilton, 34, of McRae, Ga., awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Commit an Offense Against the U.S. Government. In pleading guilty to the COVID-19 fraud charge, Hamilton admitted helping others to fraudulently apply for PPP relief, with her actions responsible for the government disbursing more than $2.3 million to banks for other conspirators. Hamilton, who received kickbacks from the co-conspirators in return for her assistance, gained more than $300,000 from the scheme.
- Anissa Carr, 22, of Hinesville, Ga., and her husband, Montrez Burns, 24, also of Hinesville, each await sentencing after pleading guilty to Wire Fraud. Each defendant admitted fraudulently seeking and securing tens of thousands of dollars in PPP funding for fictitious businesses.
- Anatoly Rybin, 41, of Richmond Hill, Ga., has been charged via Information with False Statement on a Loan Application in relation to an application to the SBA for an EIDL loan for which received $110,300. He awaits further court proceedings.
Criminal Informations contain only charges; defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
“The Office of Inspector General stands beside the nation’s small businesses by securing and safeguarding SBA programs that support and uplift them through difficult times,” said SBA OIG’s Special Agent in Charge Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite. “OIG remains committed to rooting out bad actors and protecting the integrity of SBA programs. I want to thank the U.S. Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners for their dedication and pursuit of justice.”
“As a partner with the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force, we will not allow individuals to prey on the CARES Act programs created to assist American citizens during this national emergency,” said Resident Agent-in-Charge Todd Outlaw of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division's Major Procurement Atlanta Fraud Resident Agency. “These guilty pleas are a testament of our dedication and partnership with other federal agencies to ensure critical benefit programs are protected.”
“The U.S. Secret Service along with our Law Enforcement partners remain committed in the fight to defend the Nation’s financial security, and we stand ready to protect our economic infrastructure from those that choose to feloniously exploit it,” said Craig Reno, Resident Agent in Charge of the Savannah Resident Office. “The Secret Service and our law enforcement partners will investigate and criminally prosecute such fraud to the fullest extent of the law.”
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.
The cases are being investigated by the Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Secret Service, and prosecuted for the United States by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia.