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Press Release

24 Indicted in Roanoke Paycheck Protection Program Fraud Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of Virginia
Defendants Charged in 142-Count Indictment

ROANOKE, Va. – A federal grand jury in Roanoke, Virginia returned a sealed  indictment earlier this month charging 24 individuals from the greater Roanoke area with wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering, making false statements, and fraud in relation to an emergency benefits program.  

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was a COVID-19 pandemic relief program administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) that provided forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses.

“The Paycheck Protection Program was put in place when the world’s economy was battling a once-in-a-generation health crisis. This program provided much needed financial relief to keep small businesses open,” United States Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh said today. “However, in the midst of this global crisis, a small number of people saw an opportunity to commit fraud and other criminal conduct. My Office continues to work with our law enforcement partners to root out these fraudulent opportunists and hold accountable those who swindle the citizens of the United States.”

“The FBI’s mission is to protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge Stephen Farina. “We are committed to investigating those who seek to defraud the government and will work with our partners to ensure they are brought to justice.”

“During a time of unprecedented national peril, these defendants took advantage of a pandemic by stealing federal funds intended to help businesses keep their employees paid and their doors open,” said David Meisenheimer, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Internal Revenue Service  Criminal Investigation (CI) Washington, D.C. Field Office. “I salute the case agents and prosecutors who exposed this fraud ring and brought these defendants to justice.”

The indictment, unsealed today, alleges that between June 2020 and May 2021, the charged individuals participated in a scheme to obtain PPP loans when most of them did not have an operational business. Moreover, several of these individuals who applied for PPP loans for their purported businesses were simultaneously applying for unemployment benefits.

As part of the scheme, Jaimeka Mechelle Austin and Kiearra Desaray Gardner collected personal information, such as dates of birth and social security numbers, from various friends and acquaintances that already owned businesses for the purpose of submitting fraudulent PPP loan applications on their behalf. If individuals did not already have an established business, for an additional fee, Austin and Gardner would create a sham business entity with no actual operations or employees in order for these individuals to then fraudulently claim benefits through the PPP loan program.

In all, Austin, Gardner, and other co-conspirators facilitated dozens of fraudulent loan applications to obtain more than $1.5 million in benefits to which they were not entitled. 

Those charged include:

  • Jaimeka Mechelle Austin, 31, purported owner of Mechelle’s Boutique LLC.
  • Ta’Quan De’Carlos Austin, 34, purported owner of Quan’o’s Chimney Sweep LLC.
  • Richard David Henson Brown, 35, purported owner of Immaculate Balla Cleaning Service LLC.
  • Israel Antonio Cunningham, 36, purported owner of Tate’s Lawn Care & Services LLC.
  • Rahiim Noel Cunningham, 27, purported owner of Quanie’s Lounge LLC.
  • Timothy Edward Cunningham, Jr., 26, purported owner of Gen5 Dog Kennels LLC.
  • Mikkielia Sentoyia Fisher, 37, purported owner of Mad Stylez Clothing.
  • Joshua Scott Fleming, 32, purported owner of Clear N Shine Auto Detail.
  • Kiearra Desaray Gardner, 35, purported owner of businesses in the name of Kiearra Gardner and Kustom Kreationz by Kie LLC.
  • Sierra Desaray Garrison, 39, purported owner of Major Pressure LLC.
  • Deshawn Lamar Johnson, 34, purported owner of Affordable Car Care LLC.
  • Antonio Devaughn Levesy, 36, purported owner of Squeaky Clean Mobile Detailing LLC.
  • Millot Kevin Lexima, 30, purported owner of Plugd N Kennel LLC.
  • Xavier Lee Manigault, 31, purported owner of The Goat Car Care LLC.
  • Talisha Geornell Otey, 33, purported owner of businesses in the name of Talisha, Lash Tech, and the Butterfly Effect 540 LLC.
  • Corey Durrell Steelman, 37, purported owner of Steel Hauling LLC.
  • Jamal Donnell Steelman, 34, purported owner of Steel Painters LLC.
  • Jessica Nicole Taylor, 34, purported owner of All In Caregiving LLC.
  • Thomas Manuel Taylor, 54, purported owner of Showcase Kennels LLC.
  • Denisha Michelle Walker, 31, purported owner of multiple businesses including businesses in the name of Denisha Walker and Lit & Fit Sculpting LLC.
  • Jenea Shontae Webb, 39, purported owner of Nae & Friends Childcare.
  • Stephfon Davido Webb, 36, self-employed and working in the janitorial industry.
  • Akeem Marquis Williams, 37, purported owner of Williams & Williams Moving Company LLC.

A 24th defendant has indicted but has not yet been arrested, and that defendant remains under seal.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigations is investigating the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Michael A. Baudinet, Jason M. Scheff, and Lee S. Brett are prosecuting the case.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Updated July 10, 2024

Financial Fraud