While the world grappled with the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, government relief programs were a beacon of hope for businesses struggling to survive. Aside from discussion related to most recent COVID-19 variants, the COVID-19 pandemic is fading from mainstream media.
In December 2022, Chilivis Grubman discussed the sentencing of a Georgia resident, Christopher Parris, who was sentenced to over 20 years in prison for his involvement in a COVID-19 scheme and a multi-year Ponzi scheme. There are various known COVID-19-related fraudulent schemes. The most commonly reported are PPP fraud schemes that involve fraudulent applications for PPP funds. Such was the case in a recent DOJ press release.
A Georgia woman (Lakisha Swope) was sentenced to nearly four years in prison for her role in a multi-million-dollar scheme to defraud COVID-19 relief programs. According to the DOJ, Ms. Swope was found guilty of submitting fraudulent loan applications and seeking funds from various government relief programs established to mitigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Her actions resulted in more than $3.6 million being dispensed, according to the government. As part of the scheme, Ms. Swope also traveled to several states to collect loan fees from business owners she used to file false PPP applications.
For her crimes, Ms. Swope “was sentenced to three years and 10 months in prison to be followed by three years of supervised release and was ordered to pay $3,626,961 in restitution to the U.S. Small Business Administration.” According to U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan, Ms. Swope’s sentence “demonstrates the dedication of our office, and federal, state, and local law enforcement partners, to ensure that individuals who seek to exploit this critical economic safety net are held accountable for their crimes.”
Recipients of COVID-19 relief funds must ensure continued compliance. CG attorneys provided PPP practice tips and noted that recipients should keep documentation on how the funds are used and for eligible expenses to maximize the percentage of the PPP loan ultimately forgiven. Similar intentional compliance efforts should be taken for other COVID-19 relief programs. While media attention related to COVID-19 has lessened, the government’s scrutiny and enforcement efforts continue.
The attorneys at Chilivis Grubman represent clients of all types and sizes in connection with white-collar criminal investigations. If you need assistance with such a matter, please contact us today.