Charleston Woman Pleads Guilty to COVID-19 Relief Fraud Scheme
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of West Virginia
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Tiffany Bowlin, 33, of Charleston, pleaded guilty today to a scheme to defraud the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) of $20,833 in COVID-19 relief loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).
According to court documents and statements made in court, on April 27, 2021, Bowlin applied for a PPP loan for her purported sole proprietorship, a hair salon operating under the business name “Tiffany Bowlin.” Bowlin admitted that she falsely stated that “Tiffany Bowlin” was established in 2019, when it in fact was not a legitimate business and had not engaged in substantial business activities on or before February 15, 2020. Bowlin further admitted that she submitted a false IRS Form 1040, Schedule C, stating that “Tiffany Bowlin” received $106,600 in gross income in 2020.
The CARES Act, enacted in March 2020, offered emergency financial assistance to Americans suffering from the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This assistance included forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses through the Paycheck Protection Program. Businesses applying for PPP loans had to certify that the business was in operation on February 15, 2020, and were required to provide documentation showing their prior gross income from either 2019 or 2020.
Bowlin submitted the loan application electronically from West Virginia and it was uploaded to servers in Kansas for processing. Bowlin’s loan application was approved and she received $20,833 via an electronic transfer to her personal bank account on May 13, 2021. Bowlin admitted that she spent the fraudulently obtained money to benefit herself personally and not for authorized business expenses.
On March 2, 2022, Bowlin applied to have the PPP loan forgiven even though she had not spent the loan proceeds on permissible business expenses. The SBA forgave Bowlin’s PPP loan on or about March 9, 2022.
Bowlin pleaded guilty to wire fraud and is scheduled to be sentenced on May 4, 2023. Bowlin faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine. Bowlin also owes $20,833 in restitution.
United States Attorney Will Thompson made the announcement and commended the investigative work of the West Virginia State Police-Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), and the Litigation Financial Analyst with the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Senior United States District Judge John T. Copenhaver, Jr. presided over the hearing. Assistant United States Attorney Ryan Blackwell is prosecuting 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.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:22-cr-205.
Updated February 1, 2023