Georgia arrests made in COVID fraud scheme, nearly $11 million illegally obtained
ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia has taken action against four individuals who they say illegally obtained nearly $11 million in funds intended to help struggling small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Funding through the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided more than more than $650 billion to assist small businesses navigating the financial challenges of the pandemic. Unfortunately, fraudsters tapped into this program for their own profit, and this nationwide effort seeks to hold them accountable for their widespread fraud,” says Southern District Attorney of Georgia Jill Steinburg.
The CARES Act provided small business assistance primarily with grants and forgivable loans available through the Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) or Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), according to DOJ Southern District Attorney of Georgia Office.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office, along with its law enforcement partners, conducted multiple enforcement actions during May-June 2023. The following people and incidents were identified:
- Kamario Thomas, 42, Augusta, Ga., was sentenced to 38 months in prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering. Thomas submitted over 60 fraudulent loan applications for pandemic relief and received hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks for his fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. Thomas was ordered to pay the full restitution of $4,546,945.
- Bernard Okojie, 41, of McDonough, was convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering after a three-day jury trial. During the trial, evidence reportedly showed Okojie used information for non-existent companies to file more than 20 fraudulent loan applications for pandemic relief aid, causing losses of over $3.5 million, per the DOJ. He awaits sentencing.
- Jacqueline Somesso, 55, Savannah, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for bank fraud and misprison of a felony. Somesso submitted a fake pandemic relief loan application resulting in losses of $570,736.87. She was ordered to pay restitution in this amount and to forfeit a money judgment in that amount. The court also entered a consent order forfeiting her interest in a certificate of deposit of $350,236.54 and a bank account of $3,520.91, both containing fraud money seized from her during the investigation.
- A Douglas man received service of a civil forfeiture complaint coming from his filing of numerous fraudulent loan applications for pandemic relief aid. The complaint seeks forfeiture of $326,461.33, the amount of fraud money seized from his bank account, according to a Department of Justice (DOJ) release.
- A civil forfeiture complaint was filed and continues to be litigated concerning an Atlanta condominium on Peachtree Road Northwest. This property, valued at $328,000, was reportedly purchased with money obtained fraudulently through pandemic relief loans, per the DOJ.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at (866) 720-577 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
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