Texas And Maryland Women Arrested For COVID-19 Relief Fraud
(STL.News) U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross announced today that Brandie S. Williams, 41, of Dallas, Texas, and Brittany L. Herbert, 35, of Brandywine, Maryland, were arrested and charged by criminal complaint with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and one count of bank fraud. The charges carry a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura A. Higgins, and Cory E. Jacobs and Jennifer L. Bilinkas of the Criminal Division’s Fraud, who are handling the case, stated according to the complaint, between May 2020 and June 2021, Williams and Herbert conspired with Adam Arena and Amanda Gloria, and others, to fraudulently obtain and misuse multiple COVID-19 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) emergency relief loans, including:
• Williams, Herbert, and Gloria worked together to fraudulently obtain a $290,000 loan for William’s business, Beyond the Next Level, Inc. After receiving the PPP loan, Williams did not use the funds for legitimate business-related purposes. For instance, she transferred $10,000 into bank accounts of Amanda Gloria’s daughters, $11,953.10 to a business account controlled by Amanda Gloria, and $21,953.10 to an account controlled by co-defendant Herbert.
• Williams, Herbert, and Gloria and Arena worked together to fraudulently obtain a loan for approximately $954,000 for Arena’s business, ADA Auto Group. After the PPP loan proceeds were transferred into an account controlled by Arena, he conducted a series of financial transactions, including for his own personal benefit, for Gloria’s benefit, and for the benefit of others.
• Williams, Herbert, and Gloria worked together to fraudulently obtain at least 42 additional loans for at least 31 entities owned by other individuals, requesting a total of approximately $10,200,000. This resulted in Herbert and Gloria personally receiving at least approximately $383,000. The defendants submitted false and fraudulent documents to support the loan applications, including falsified payroll expenses, fraudulent bank records, and fabricated federal tax filings.
Adam Arena and Amanda Gloria were previously convicted and are awaiting sentencing.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020, designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. One source of relief provided by the CARES Act was the authorization of up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses, through the PPP. In April 2020, Congress authorized over $300 billion in additional PPP funding.
The PPP allows qualifying small businesses and other organizations to receive loans with a maturity of two years and an interest rate of 1%. PPP loan proceeds must be used by businesses on payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities. The PPP allows the interest and principal on the PPP loan to be forgiven if the business spends the loan proceeds on these expense items within a designated period of time after receiving the proceeds and uses at least a certain percentage of the PPP loan proceeds on payroll expenses.
The Fraud Section leads the Department of Justice’s prosecution of fraud schemes that exploit the CARES Act. In the months since the CARES Act was passed, Fraud Section attorneys have prosecuted more than 100 defendants in more than 70 criminal cases. The Fraud Section has also seized more than $65 million in cash proceeds derived from fraudulently obtained PPP funds, as well as numerous real-estate properties and luxury items purchased with such proceeds.
The criminal complaint is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Stephen Belongia; the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Thomas Fattorusso; the United States Postal Inspection Service, Boston Division, under the direction of Inspector-in-Charge Ketty Larco-Ward; and the Social Security Administration Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent-in-Charge Sharon B. MacDermott, New York Field Division.
The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.