Kanawha County 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. – Imeesha Bradley, 27, of South Charleston, pleaded guilty today to receipt of stolen money. Bradley admitted to a scheme to defraud the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) of $18,703 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 21, 2021, Bradley applied for a PPP loan for her purported business, “Imeesha Bradley.” Bradley admitted that “Imeesha Bradley” was never engaged in legitimate business activity and was not a registered business entity at the time she applied for the loan. Bradley further admitted that she falsely represented that her fictitious business received $89,772 in gross income during 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.
A California lender approved Bradley’s fraudulent PPP loan application for $18,703, and transferred the funds to Bradley’s personal bank account on May 10, 2021. Bradley admitted that she withdrew $5,000 of the stolen funds that day and an additional $7,000 on May 14, 2021, each time from a bank branch in Nitro, West Virginia.
Bradley is scheduled to be sentenced on November 14, 2023, and faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a $250,00 fine. Bradley also owes $18,703 in restitution.
United States Attorney Will Thompson made the announcement and commended the investigative work of the West Virginia State Police-Bureau of Criminal Investigations (BCI) and the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office (WVSAO) Public Integrity and Fraud Unit (PIFU).
Senior United States District Judge David A. Faber 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. 2:23-cr-112.
Updated August 1, 2023