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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Missouri

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, November 18, 2022

KC Woman Pleads Guilty to CARES Act Fraud Scheme

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A Kansas City, Mo., woman has pleaded guilty in federal court to fraudulently receiving a $10,000 Economic Injury Disaster Loan, a program that was part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Nicole R. Cortez, 41, waived her right to a grand jury and pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Stephen R. Bough on Thursday, Nov. 17, to a federal information that charges her with one count of wire fraud.

The purpose of the CARES Act was to provide emergency financial assistance due to the economic impact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act authorized the Small Business Administration to provide Economic Injury Disaster Loans to eligible small businesses that experienced substantial financial disruption due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

By pleading guilty today, Cortez admitted that she provided her personal identification information to a co-conspirator (identified in court documents as C1), who then used that information to submit an online loan application. The loan application fraudulently claimed that Cortez was the owner of a business called “Cortez Shoez Inc,” and provided false information regarding gross revenue and the number of employees. In reality, there is no such business associated with Cortez.

Cortez completed and signed a loan authorization and agreement for the Cortez Shoez loan on Aug. 8, 2020, falsely certifying that all of the information was correct and that loan proceeds would be used “solely as working capital to alleviate economic injury caused by disaster occurring in the month of January 31, 2020, and continuing thereafter.”

The Small Business Administration approved the loan and deposited $10,000 into Cortez’s bank account on Aug. 11, 2020. She spent the loan proceeds on personal expenses, such as car payments, restaurant purchases, and cash withdrawals.

Under federal statutes, Cortez is subject to a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison without parole. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be held on April 20, 2023.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul S. Becker. It was investigated by the U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Updated November 18, 2022