Three defendants indicted in $ 1.6 million Covid-19 fraud program | USAO-SDNY
Audrey Strauss, United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, William F. Sweeney Jr., Deputy Director in Charge, New York Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”) and Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite, Agent Special Officer, the Office of Inspector General (“SBA-OIG”) of the US Small Business Administration (“SBA-OIG”), today announced the unveiling of a complaint accusing ALICIA AYERS, ANDREA AYERS and TRACI PROCTOR of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, misrepresentation, and aggravated identity theft in a scheme to defraud the Small Business Administration (“SBA”) of the United States, resulting in a loss to the SBA of over $ 1.6 million. The three defendants were arrested this morning. ALICIA AYERS and ANDREA AYERS will appear this afternoon before United States Justice of the Peace Judith C. McCarthy. TRACI PROCTOR will be presented to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.
US Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “As alleged, the defendants conspired to defraud the SBA by submitting disaster loan and grant applications for non-existent companies. In doing so, they stole funds intended for the many small businesses struggling in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We thank the FBI and the SBA-OIG for their partnership in investigating the alleged scheme. ”
FBI Deputy Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said: ‘As small businesses across the country clamored for the economic support they desperately needed after the first quarter of the pandemic, those charged today are said to have viewed the SBA’s Economic Disaster Lending Program as nothing. more than an opportunity to make a quick profit. As alleged, Ayers, Ayers and Proctor have filed more than 300 online claims on behalf of third parties which contained false information to support their claims. This resulted in nearly $ 1.7 million in payments from the SBA, part of which was received by the defendants in the form of bribes. No matter how creative the program is, rest assured that those who siphon money from taxpayer-funded programs will be actively prosecuted. This investigation is continuing and we ask anyone with information to call us at 1-800-CALL-FBI or reach us online at tips.fbi.gov. ”
Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite, Special Agent in Charge of the SBA OIG Eastern Region, said: “Law enforcement will aggressively uncover fraudsters who have been hiding behind stolen identities to gain access to EIDL funds. the SBA. SBA OIG will actively seek evidence of fraud with its law enforcement partners. I want to thank the United States Attorney’s Office for its leadership and dedication to justice. “
As alleged in the complaint:
The SBA is a federal executive branch agency that administers aid to American small businesses. This assistance includes the provision of direct loans to applicants under the Economic Disaster Lending Program (“EIDL”). In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress expanded the SBA’s EIDL program to provide small businesses with low-interest loans of up to $ 2 million before or around May 2020 and up to 150,000 dollars from or around May 2020, to provide vital economic support to help overcome the loss of income that small businesses are experiencing due to COVID-19. Applicants seeking a loan under the EIDL program were also allowed to request and receive an advance of approximately $ 1,000 per employee, up to a maximum of $ 10,000, which the SBA typically provided during that the loan application was in progress.
In June and July 2020, ALICIA AYERS, ANDREA AYERS and TRACI PROCTOR used the identities of approximately 300 other people (the “Applicants”) to submit approximately 315 online applications to the SBA, seeking over 3 million dollars in funds through the SBA’s EIDL program. . (the “EIDL Applications”). As part of the EIDL claims, ALICIA AYERS, ANDREA AYERS and PROCTOR falsely indicated to the SBA, among others, that the claimants were owners of businesses with ten or more employees. In fact, however, the apps mistakenly indicated the number of employees of the companies, and the vast majority of the alleged companies do not appear to have existed at all. Based on the fraudulent EIDL claims, the SBA paid down payments of approximately $ 1,690,000 to claimants, who often returned a portion of the down payments to ALICIA AYERS, ANDREA AYERS and TRACI PROCTOR.
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ALICIA AYERS, 34, and ANDREA AYERS, 54, of Mount Vernon, New York, and TRACI PROCTOR, 47, of Clarkston, Ga., Are charged with (1) conspiracy to commit wire fraud, punishable by ” a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, (2) wire fraud, punishable by a maximum penalty of 2 years in prison, (3) false statements, punishable by a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and (4 ) aggravated identity theft, punishable by two years in prison. consecutive sentence of one year.
The potential maximum sentences in these cases are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any convictions of defendants will be determined by a judge.
Ms. Strauss praised the outstanding work of the FBI and SBA-OIG.
The case is being pursued by the White Plains division of the Bureau. US assistant lawyers Jeffrey C. Coffman and Courtney Heavey are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the complaint are only charges and the accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
 As the opening sentence indicates, the entire text of the complaint and the description of the complaint set forth herein constitute allegations only, and every fact described therein should be treated as an allegation.