Augusta chief approves COVID-19 program that provided more than $4 million in loans and grants

STATESBORO, GA: A Richmond County man has pleaded guilty to running a scheme to submit fraudulent applications for COVID-19 small business aid that resulted in more than $4 million in payments.

Camario Thomas, 42, of Augusta, is charged by a Criminal Information with Conspiracy, said David H. Estes, US Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. Tomasi’s plea of ​​guilty to the felony charge has allowed Tomasi to be sentenced to a maximum of 5 years in prison, followed by a 3-year suspended sentence, along with financial penalties. large and repaid to the US government. There is no parole in the federal system.

“This conviction represents the continued, aggressive pursuit of those who should not receive government funding for struggling small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the U.S. Attorney. Estes. “Working with our law enforcement partners, we will hold accountable those who attempt to launder the proceeds of these programs.”

The 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided more than $650 billion in funding for certified small businesses facing financial challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, plus and grant and forgive loans obtained through the Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) or the Economy. Disaster Relief Loan (EIDL).

In his confession, Thomas admitted that he completed false and fraudulent EIDL applications for himself, and that he received hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks for completing and submitting false PPP applications and the EIDL on behalf of its partners. To make those requests, Thomas created IRS documents and tax records.

In total, the program resulted in more than $4 million in fraudulent loans and CARES Act grants.

“The use of Small Business Administration programs undermines the spirit and true purpose of strengthening the backbone of the nation’s economy: small businesses,” said the SBA Office of Inspector General’s Eastern Region Special Agent in Charge Amaleka McCall-Braithwaite. “The OIG is committed to rooting out criminals and protecting the integrity of SBA programs. I want to thank the US Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners for their dedication and pursuit of justice.”

“In too many cases, greedy people have taken advantage of the PPP, diverting much needed money from those businesses that need it most,” said James E. Dorsey, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Atlanta Field Office. “This request indicates that the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force will continue to pursue and hold accountable those who chose greed over compassion for their fellow Americans who faced economic hardship during this time.” the COVID disease.”

“The funds of the CARES Act were intended to help people and businesses affected by the disease, not to line the pockets of greedy professionals,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta . “The FBI continues to work with our partners to do everything in our power to ensure that the stolen funds are returned to the public, and that each person involved in this type of criminal behavior is charged. to the fullest extent of the law.”

“The defendant used deception and fraud to obtain loans he was not entitled to receive for his own financial benefit,” said Tommy D. Coke, Inspector General of the Atlanta Division of the US Postal Inspection Service. “This guilty plea is a reminder that the US Postal Inspection Service, along with our law enforcement partners, remains committed to investigating individuals for these types of crimes and bringing criminals to book.”

“An important mission of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General is to investigate fraud related to the COVID-19 benefit program. Through collaboration and resource utilization, it continues to do so by government law enforcement is taking several steps to stop the spread of COVID-19,” said Mathew Broadhurst, Special Agent-in-Charge, Southeast Region, US Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General. “We will continue to work closely with the US Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners to protect COVID-19 benefit programs, including unemployment benefit programs, for those who need it most.”

The matter is being investigated by the Small Business Office of the Inspector General, IRS Criminal Investigation, the FBI, the US Postal Inspection Service, and the Office of the Labor Inspector General, and has been prosecuted by the Assistant Attorney General to Jenifer A for America. Stanley.

Anyone with information about alleged fraud attempts involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Office of National Court for Disaster Relief (NCDF) Hotline at. 866-720-5721 or through the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

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