New Orleans, Louisiana – A Former Louisiana resident has been charged with CARES Act fraud after allegedly securing a PPP loan for a nonexistent company.
Duane A. Evans, U.S. Attorney, announced that 38-year-old Bria Peters, who used to live in New Orleans, Louisiana, and currently resides in Houston, Texas, was indicted on August 18, 2023. She faced a single-charge indictment for making fraudulent claims associated with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).
The CARES Act, enacted on March 27, 2020, initiated new temporary programs and provided for the expansion of others to help handle the COVID-19 outbreak. Among them is the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a program that offers forgivable loans, supported by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), to smaller businesses. These businesses use the funds to keep staff, sustain payroll, and cover bills such as mortgage interest, lease, and utilities. If the loan amount is used for these specific costs within a certain time frame after receipt, and a minimum percentage of it is allocated to payroll expenses, the PPP offers a provision to forgive both the principal and interest of the loan.
The court documents reveal that Peters made false statements to an authorized lender with fabrications on or around May 27, 2021, in an attempt to unfairly secure a PPP loan. She eventually received around $29,166.00. Allegedly, in her PPP submission, Peters lied about operating a clothing enterprise affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, whereas she didn’t own any such venture in 2020.
Peters might be sentenced to imprisonment for a maximum duration of five years, levied with fines that could reach up to $250,000, and additionally be subjected to three years of supervised release for making false statements. In addition, a compulsory special evaluation fee of $100 is to be paid after being convicted.
U.S. Attorney Evans emphasized that a bill of information is simply an accusation, and the defendant’s guilt has to be established beyond a plausible doubt.
To learn more about the Department of Justice’s strategy for handling the pandemic, visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus. If have information about any attempts at fraud related to COVID-19, you are encouraged to disclose it by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline via 866-720-5721 or lodging a complaint on the NCDF Web Complaint Form at https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
U.S. Attorney Evans commended the Amtrak Office of Inspector General – Criminal Investigations for their efforts in investigating this case. The prosecution is being overseen by Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward J. Rivera from the Financial Crimes Unit.