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Press Release

Three Indicted for $1 Million COVID-19 Relief Fraud

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of North Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A federal grand jury in Charlotte has indicted three individuals for conspiring to fraudulently obtain more than $1 million in COVID-19 relief funds administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), announced Dena J. King, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.

Tommy D. Coke, Inspector in Charge of the Atlanta Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, which oversees Charlotte, and Mark H. Morini, Special Agent in Charge of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), Southeast Field Division, join U.S. Attorney King in making today’s announcement.

According to allegations in the federal indictment, between March and November 2021, Tamakia Elizabeth Harris, 43, Shavondra Michelle White, 39, and Cedric Lee Benton, 47, all of Charlotte, conspired with each other to fraudulently obtain more than $1 million in COVID-19 relief funds, by submitting fraudulent PPP loan applications to financial servicing companies outside North Carolina. The indictment alleges that the PPP loan applications contained false and misleading information and fraudulent supporting documentation, including fake federal tax filings and payroll reports.

As alleged in the indictment, Harris, who was employed by a nationally chartered bank in Charlotte, generally charged fees between $2,000 and $5,000 for her assistance in filing false and fraudulent PPP loans. Harris allegedly created counterfeit IRS forms for nonexistent businesses and inflated income to qualify the borrower for the highest amount of PPP loan. Harris then allegedly submitted the fraudulent PPP loan applications and supporting documents to the financial servicing companies. The indictment alleges that, in total, Harris assisted in creating and submitting over 30 fraudulent PPP loan applications totaling more than $900,000.

According to allegations in the indictment, White, who was also employed by a nationally chartered bank in Charlotte, electronically filed two PPP loans in her own name using forged and fictitious federal income tax documents prepared by Harris. arris The indictment alleges that White, Benton, and another individual received more than $100,000 in PPP loans that they were not entitled to receive.

The indictment further alleges that Benton, who is White’s boyfriend and has a prior criminal conviction, also submitted two fraudulent PPP loan applications with fictitious and forged IRS forms, or income he purportedly lost while in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons (BOP).

The defendants are each charged with one count of wire fraud conspiracy, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. One or more of the defendants are also charged in 16 separate counts of wire fraud – each relating to a specific PPP loan – which also carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison per count.

The charges in the indictment are allegations. The defendants are innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law.

In making today’s announcement, U.S. Attorney King thanked the USPIS and TIGTA for their investigation of this case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael E. Savage, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Charlotte, is prosecuting the case.

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 Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: 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.


Updated October 19, 2022

Financial Fraud