Georgia woman ordered to repay more than $1 million in restitution for COVID fraud
SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - A Georgia woman has been sentenced to prison and ordered to repay more than $1 million in restitution for COVID fraud.
26-year-old Salmat Deyji was sentenced to 26 months in prison after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud and Money Laundering, according to Jill E. Steinberg, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.
The 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act provided more than $650 billion in funding for qualifying small businesses facing financial challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, including grants available through the Paycheck Protection Program.
In her plea agreement, Deyji admitted to filling out and submitting fraudulent PPP loan applications for herself and other individuals, who did not meet the qualifications for the program.
She assisted in filing these applications using fabricated IRS forms and tax records which she created. Her scheme included soliciting information from U.S. Army service members as well as friends and family who she recruited to receive PPP funding in exchange for kickbacks, officials say.
In total, the scheme caused the disbursement of more than $1 million in fraudulent CARES Act grants to more than three dozen applicants. At least six others who participated in the scheme pled guilty to related charges, with sentences ranging from probation to 22 months in prison along with substantial orders of restitution.
Deyji will also serve three years of supervised release upon completion of her prison term.
Officials say there is no parole in the federal system.
“Congress provided substantial funding to assist struggling small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, and unfortunately scam artists found myriad ways to enrich themselves through those funds,” said U.S. Attorney Steinberg. “Salmat Deyji not only helped herself to undeserved assistance, but also profited by conducting fraudulent activity on behalf of others. She’s now being held accountable for this substantial theft.”
Copyright 2023 WTOC. All rights reserved.