In a significant case of COVID-19 fraud, a woman from Denver, DeJane Reaniece Lattany, has recently pleaded guilty to wire fraud for unlawfully obtaining over $3.3 million in fraudulent COVID-19 loans. Lattany took advantage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which aimed to provide economic assistance to struggling small businesses affected by the pandemic. From June 2020 to December 2021, Lattany submitted fraudulent applications to the Small Business Administration (SBA) for loans, misrepresenting the number of employees, gross revenues, and expenses of businesses she claimed to own. Instead of using the funds for legitimate business purposes, she diverted the majority for personal gain. The case is scheduled for sentencing on August 15, 2023.
The CARES Act and Small Business Funding
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law by the President of the United States on March 27, 2020. This legislation aimed to provide emergency assistance to small business owners who were facing adverse economic effects due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act included various temporary programs and expanded existing programs, particularly those established or administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA).
Funding Programs: PPP, EIDL, and EIDG
Two significant sources of funding for small businesses under the CARES Act were the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) program. The PPP aimed to provide loans to businesses to cover payroll costs and other essential business expenses. On the other hand, the EIDL program provided direct loans to small businesses affected by the pandemic. Additionally, the Act allowed the SBA to issue advances known as Economic Injury Disaster Grants (EIDG) of up to $10,000 to eligible small businesses.
Submission of Fraudulent EIDL Applications
DeJane Reaniece Lattany, a 32-year-old woman from Denver, has pleaded guilty to wire fraud for her involvement in a scheme to fraudulently obtain COVID-19 loans. Starting in June 2020 and continuing through January 2022, Lattany submitted fraudulent EIDL applications to the SBA on behalf of business entities she claimed to own. In these applications, she made false statements about the number of employees, gross revenues, and cost of goods sold. She also falsely certified the accuracy of the information provided and claimed that the funds would be used for eligible business expenses. However, Lattany primarily used the majority of the proceeds for personal gain. The SBA approved and funded five EIDL applications and three EIDGs for a total of $430,000 in EIDLs and $20,000 in EIDGs.
Misrepresentation in PPP Applications
In addition to the fraudulent EIDL applications, Lattany also submitted fraudulent PPP applications to participating lenders between June 2020 and December 2021. She claimed to control multiple business entities and obtained $2,887,976.94 in PPP loans as a result of this scheme. The PPP applications contained false and fraudulent certifications and representations regarding Lattany’s ownership of other businesses, average monthly payroll, and number of employees. She falsely stated that all PPP funds would be used for eligible business expenses when, in reality, she used most of the funds for personal purposes. Lattany also submitted fraudulent documentation to support the PPP applications.
Misuse of Funds
As a result of the fraudulent activities, Lattany obtained a total amount of $3,337,976.94 from the EIDL, EIDG, and PPP programs. The funds that were meant to help struggling small businesses affected by the pandemic were misappropriated for personal gain by Lattany.
Guilty Plea and Sentencing
On April 26, 2023, DeJane Reaniece Lattany pleaded guilty before United States District Court Judge Nina Y. Wang. Sentencing has been scheduled for August 15, 2023. Lattany now faces the consequences of her actions, which may include imprisonment and financial penalties.
Investigation and Prosecution
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Denver Division conducted the investigation into Lattany’s fraudulent activities. Assistant United States Attorneys Nicole C. Cassidy and Rebecca S. Weber are responsible for prosecuting the case.
COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force
To combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force on May 17, 2021. This task force aims to bring together the resources of the Department of Justice and other government agencies to investigate and prosecute those involved in COVID-19-related fraud. By coordinating efforts, sharing information, and leveraging prior enforcement experiences, the task force seeks to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, protect relief programs, and hold accountable those responsible for fraud.
Department’s Response to the Pandemic
Efforts to Combat and Prevent Pandemic-Related Fraud
The Department of Justice has been actively responding to the challenges posed by the pandemic. One of its primary objectives has been to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud, such as the case involving DeJane Reaniece Lattany. By prosecuting individuals involved in fraudulent activities and recovering misappropriated funds, the Department aims to protect the integrity and effectiveness of relief programs designed to support small businesses during these difficult times.
Resources and Techniques to Uncover Fraudulent Actors and Schemes
The Department of Justice has dedicated significant resources and employed various techniques to identify and uncover fraudulent actors and schemes. Through the collaboration of different agencies, law enforcement agencies can gather information, utilize sophisticated investigative techniques, and employ data analysis to detect patterns of fraud. By staying vigilant and proactive, the Department aims to ensure that relief funds reach those in genuine need and are not misused for personal gain.
Reporting Fraudulent Activity
If you have any information about attempted fraud involving COVID-19, it is crucial to report it. You can contact the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 to report fraudulent activity. Alternatively, you can submit a complaint through the NCDF Web Complaint Form at https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form. By reporting fraudulent activity, you play a vital role in the ongoing efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud.
DeJane Reaniece Lattany’s case is not an isolated incident. The Department of Justice has been actively pursuing individuals involved in COVID-19 fraud. Some related cases include:
- Denver Woman Sentenced to Four Years in Federal Prison for CARES Act Fraud
- Federal Grand Jury Returns Charges for COVID-19 Fraud
- Idaho Springs Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Wire Fraud and Money Laundering
These cases serve as examples of the Department’s commitment to holding individuals accountable for their fraudulent actions and ensuring that justice is served.
Contact and Stay Connected
If you have any questions or need to contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Colorado, you can find their contact information below:
- Location: 1801 California Street Suite 1600, Denver, CO 80202
- Media Inquiries: Email or Tel: (303) 454-0100
- Fax Line: (303) 454-0400
To stay connected with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Colorado, you can follow them on social media platforms and other stay connected platforms.
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