Florida Woman Convicted of COVID-19 Relief Fraud
(STL.News) A federal jury convicted a Florida woman on Nov. 24 for fraudulently obtaining a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Keyaira Bostic, 32, of Pembroke Pines, obtained a PPP loan of $84,515 for her company, I Am Liquid Inc., based on false information about the company’s number of employees and average payroll, and based on false supporting tax and bank documents.
Bostic also paid more than $21,000 to an alleged co-conspirator, James Stote, as a kickback for his assistance in preparing and submitting the fraudulent loan application. The evidence also showed that Bostic, in exchange for kickbacks, referred other co-conspirators to the scheme on whose behalf Stote submitted fraudulent PPP loan applications. Those loan applicants sought more than $3.3 million in fraudulent PPP loans and obtained nearly $2 million in PPP loan proceeds.
Bostic was convicted of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud and three counts of wire fraud. She was found not guilty of bank fraud. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 3, 2022, and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each count of conviction. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Stote was charged by information on Nov. 10 with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. His case remains pending.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Acting U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio “Tony” Gonzalez of the Southern District of Florida; Special Agent in Charge Michael J. De Palma of the IRS-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Miami Field Office; Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI’s Miami Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite of the SBA’s Office of Inspector General (SBA-OIG) Eastern Region made the announcement.
The IRS-CI, FBI, and SBA-OIG investigated the cases.
Trial Attorney Philip Trout of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney David Turken of the Southern District of Florida prosecuted the case.
The Fraud Section leads the Criminal Division’s prosecution of fraud schemes that exploit the PPP. Since the inception of the CARES Act, the Fraud Section has prosecuted over 150 defendants in more than 95 criminal cases and has seized over $75 million in cash proceeds derived from fraudulently obtained PPP funds, as well as numerous real estate properties and luxury items purchased with such proceeds.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts.
An information is merely an allegation, and Stote is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.