Charlotte Woman Pleads Guilty To Wire Fraud Conspiracy For Falsely Obtaining Coronavirus Relief Funds
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Yesenia Rodriguez, 25, of Charlotte, appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge David S. Cayer today and pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud for fraudulently obtaining over $100,000 in COVID-19 relief funds, announced Dena J. King, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
Robert R. Wells, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Charlotte Division, joins U.S. Attorney King in making today’s announcement.
According to filed court documents and today’s plea hearing, Rodriguez engaged in a conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) by, among other things, obtaining an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) based on false information. As Rodriguez admitted in court today, from April 2020 through May 2021, the defendant conspired with another individual, identified in court documents as G.R., to obtain COVID-19 relief funds, including two loans under the EIDL program and federally subsidized unemployment benefits totaling over $100,000.
Plea documents show that in July 2020, Rodriguez electronically submitted a fraudulent EIDL application for a purported hair and nail salon named Yesenia Rodriguez. Rodriguez, who had recently left her job at a national bank, submitted the application for the purported salon, when in fact Rodriguez did not own a salon and, instead, was collecting unemployment. As a result of the fraudulent EIDL application, Rodriguez received $37,500 in relief funding via electronic financial transactions. Rodriguez’s co-conspirator, G.R., also fraudulently obtained EIDL funding totaling $47,500 for a business identified as Company 1. Although Company 1 was a real operating business, G.R. electronically submitted a fraudulent application that contained false representations about its eligibility for EIDL funding, including the date Company 1 was founded. At the time the EIDL application was submitted for Company 1, G.R. was also fraudulently collecting federally subsidized unemployment benefits from the State of North Carolina. Rodriguez and G.R. fraudulently obtained at least $112,000 in disaster relief funds that were intended for existing businesses and individuals harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rodriguez was released on bond following today’s guilty plea. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum prison term of 5 years and a $250,000 fine. A sentencing date has not been set.
The CARES Act is a federal law enacted March 29, 2020, and it is designed to provide emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act established several new temporary programs and provided for the expansion of others, including the EIDL program, which is an SBA program that provides low-interest financing to small businesses, renters, and homeowners in regions affected by declared disasters.
In making today’s announcement U.S. Attorney King commended the FBI for their investigation and thanked the North Carolina Department of Public Safety Special Operations and Intelligence Unit for their invaluable assistance.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Ryan of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte is prosecuting the case.
The Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina remain vigilant in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting wrongdoing related to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you think you are a victim of coronavirus fraud or have information pertaining to fraud involving COVID-19, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or submit a complaint online using the NCDF Web Complaint Form. Members of the public in the Western District of North Carolina are also encouraged to call 704-344-6222 to reach their local Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator.