Richlands Salon Owner, Mandi Dawn Hammond Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Federal Government
Mandi Hammond received nearly $30,000 in fraudulent Covid-19 Unemployment Funds
(STL.News) A Richlands, Virginia woman, who owned and operated a local hair and nail salon, pled guilty this week to defrauding the federal government out of pandemic unemployment assistance benefits and committing mail fraud.
Mandi Dawn Hammond, 36, waived her right to be indicted and pled guilty this week to one count of fraud in connection with a major disaster or emergency benefits program and one count of mail fraud.
“As the world faced a once-in-a-generation global pandemic, Congress and the President passed sweeping legislation to assist businesses and individuals in surviving economic upheaval,” United States Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh said today. “These programs were designed as a safety net for those in need, not as a get-rich-quick scheme for those looking to commit fraud. I am continually grateful for the work of our local, state, and federal law enforcement for pursuing these important prosecutions.”
“Mandi Hammond continued to fraudulently take taxpayer assistance to enrich herself during a time of national crisis that was meant to help people who truly needed it,” said IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge, Darrell Waldon, of the Washington, D.C. Field Office. “This is yet another example of IRS-CI’s commitment to work with our partners and pursue those who commit COVID-19 related fraud and bring them to justice.”
According to court documents, Hammond owned and operated Jama Nail Beauty Bar & Gift Shop in Richlands, Virginia. After an executive order signed in March 2020 by the Governor of Virginia closed all close-contact salons, Hammond closed her business for approximately six weeks.
On April 19, 2020, Hammond filed an application for pandemic unemployment assistance via the Virginia Employment Commission website where it was reviewed, processed, and approved. For approximately six weeks, she legitimately received pandemic unemployment assistance as intended by the government.
In May 2020, the executive order closing all close-contact salons was lifted and Hammond reopened her business. However, she continued filing weekly certifications to receive pandemic unemployment benefits from May 2020 through August 2021, each week reaffirming fraudulent representations that she was still unemployed because of COVID-19. Court records indicate Hammond received at least $29,154 in funds to which she was not entitled.
Hammond is scheduled to be sentenced on September 15, 2022. The charges with which she has been convicted carry a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The IRS-Criminal Investigations Division and the Russell County Sheriff’s Office investigated the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel J. Murphy is prosecuting the case.
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.