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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, June 6, 2022

Grand Jury Charges Memphis Woman Who Allegedly Bought Maserati Luxury Automobile and Other Personal Items with Fraudulently Obtained Paycheck Protection Loans

Memphis, TN - A Memphis woman was charged for her role in a fraudulent scheme to obtain thousands of dollars in federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans for herself and others.  Joseph C. Murphy Jr., United States Attorney, announced the indictment today.   

On May 19, 2022, a federal grand jury charged Kenyatta Danielle Hooper, 34, in a six-count indictment with wire fraud.   Hooper was arrested on Friday, May 27, 2022.  

According to the indictment, the Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020, designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The law authorized up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses, through the PPP.  In April 2020, Congress authorized over $300 billion in additional PPP funding.   

Hooper engaged in a scheme to illegally obtain thousands of dollars in PPP money for herself and others through numerous misrepresentations to financial institutions. Hooper both personally submitted and directed others to submit fraudulent PPP loan applications.  She also submitted fake and false documents in support of these applications.  Hooper also took kickbacks from the persons she assisted in filing fraudulent PPP loan applications.  She further falsely certified that she would only use PPP loan proceeds for permissible expenses – payroll, rent or mortgage payments, and utilities – and instead spent loan money on a Maserati automobile, personal travel, concerts, and gambling.  

“Congress funded the PPP program to provide a financial lifeline to struggling small businesses in West Tennessee and across the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic”, said United States Attorney Joseph C. Murphy.  “Bad actors unfortunately have targeted this critical assistance program and fraudulently diverted much needed resources.  Our office and our law enforcement partners will investigate all allegations of unlawful use of these funds and are committed to ensuring federal tax dollars are used for their intended purposes.” 

“The FBI takes particular interest in cases where individuals scheme for their own personal benefit, lining their pockets at the public’s expense,” said Douglas M. Korneski, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Memphis Field Office. “The honest and law-abiding small business owners in this country should be assured by this indictment that the FBI is committed to working closely with its law enforcement partners to vigorously pursue anyone who would scheme to use critical assistance loans for their own avaricious desires.” 

“Scheming to fraudulently use SBA program funds is unacceptable,” said SBA OIG’s Special Agent-in-Charge Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite. “OIG remains committed to rooting out bad actors and protecting the integrity of SBA programs. I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners for their dedication and pursuit of justice.” 

“The Memphis Field Office of the United States Secret Service assisted the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the arrest of suspect Kenyatta Hooper for COVID-19 Paycheck Protection Program Fraud.  This investigation and subsequent arrest once again demonstrate the continued collaboration between the FBI and Secret Service to combat financial crime,” said Carl B. Hagins, Special Agent in Charge (Memphis Field Office), United States Secret Service. 

Hooper faces up to 20 years in federal prison on each wire fraud count.  There is no parole in the federal system. 

The charges and allegations contained in indictment are merely accusations of criminal conduct, not evidence. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and convicted through due process of law. 

The case was investigated by the FBI, the United States Small Business Administration, and the United States Secret Service. 

Assistant United States Attorney Tony Arvin is prosecuting the case on behalf of the government.

  
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Updated June 6, 2022