Louisiana Treasurer Announces Fraud Five Indictments in Main Street Recovery Program Fraud and Theft Cases

By Evelina Rivers
Published June 06, 2023

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Louisiana Treasurer Announces Fraud Five Indictments in Main Street Recovery Program Fraud and Theft Cases

Baton Rouge, Louisiana – The Louisiana Treasurer has announced five indictments for fraud and theft in the Main Street Recovery Program.

Louisiana State Treasurer John M. Schroder has announced the indictment of five people on felony charges of Main Street Recovery Program (MSRP) government benefits fraud and computer fraud and theft. These charges are an attempt to reduce the program’s already extremely low fraud rate of 1.32 percent, as assessed by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office, which is much lower than the national average for similar programs, which is 15.2 percent.

“This was supposed to be a program to help small businesses, not line people’s pockets. I have zero tolerance for fraud. It is shameful that government lets people get away with it,” Schroder said. “This is just one program. As a former law enforcement officer I believe all agencies should take every opportunity to investigate, prosecute and convict those who break the law.”

Despite the fact that the MSRP fraud rate has fallen far below what he was told was the federal government’s “acceptable fraud rate allowance,” Schroder stated that the Department of Treasury will continue to work with law enforcement agencies to aggressively seek out and prosecute those who have committed fraud in order to obtain justice and restitution.

Schroder indicated that he personally called individuals who were found to have submitted false information in order to receive monies in order to recoup funds. “I would call around dinner time and people at first didn’t believe it was really me – the State Treasurer – calling them,” he said. “I informed them that Treasury had been made aware of their ‘incorrect application submission’ and that they needed to return their money.” As of June 1, $466,000 in cash had been recovered and $580,000 had been settled, for a total of more than $1 million recovered. Treasury collaborated with the Office of Inspector General Stephen Street to identify both those who committed fraud and those who intended to conduct fraud but were apprehended before obtaining payments.

Terez Bradley, 38, of St. Tammany Parish; Althea Scott, 45, of Jefferson Parish; Viola Combs, 59, of East Baton Rouge Parish; Geona Garrett, 37, of Tangipahoa Parish; and Geliss Garrett, 34, of St. Tammany Parish were indicted by an East Baton Rouge Parish Grand Jury in the 19th Judicial District. The suspects have been served with arrest warrants, and hearings have been scheduled.

MSRP distributed $262 million to businesses in Louisiana suffering from pandemic-related operating losses in an average of 46.38 days from application submission to award payout.

Nearly $160 million was distributed to minority and military small business owners, more than four times the amount required by law. There were 20,751 grants given, with an average of $12,675 awarded to each business. The program exceeded statutory expectations, with 70 percent of enterprises receiving grants receiving the maximum $15,000 award amount.

An arrest is an indication that probable cause exists to believe the subject was involved in the offense alleged. All persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty.