In a recent development, the Southern District of Georgia has taken action against individuals involved in COVID-19 fraud, prosecuting nearly $11 million in illegal funds obtained to help struggling small businesses during the pandemic. Working alongside the Justice Department’s nationwide initiative, U.S. Attorney Jill E. Steinberg announced that the district conducted over 20 enforcement actions from May to July 2023, targeting individuals who fraudulently tapped into funding programs such as the Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL). These measures aim to hold the fraudsters accountable for their widespread scamming, raising awareness about the importance of ensuring the proper allocation of financial aid during challenging times.
As part of a coordinated nationwide effort to combat COVID-19 fraud, the Southern District of Georgia has taken action against individuals who illegally obtained nearly $11 million in funds intended to assist struggling small businesses during the global pandemic. U.S. Attorney Jill E. Steinberg announced that from May through July 2023, the Southern District of Georgia conducted over 20 enforcement actions, resulting in a total of $10.9 million in alleged COVID-19 relief fraud. This article will provide an overview of these enforcement actions, the background on COVID-19 relief programs, specific cases in the Southern District of Georgia, civil forfeiture complaints, reporting fraud involving COVID-19, law enforcement agencies involved, Assistant U.S. Attorneys and Senior Litigation Counsel, and contact information.
Background on COVID-19 Relief Programs
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, enacted in 2020, provided more than $650 billion in funding to assist small businesses navigating the financial challenges of the pandemic. These funds were primarily distributed through grants and forgivable loans available through programs such as the Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL).
Enforcement Actions in the Southern District of Georgia
During the timeframe of May to July 2023, the Southern District of Georgia U.S. Attorney’s Office, in collaboration with its law enforcement partners, conducted a significant number of enforcement actions related to COVID-19 relief fraud. These actions targeted individuals who fraudulently obtained funds meant for small business assistance. The total amount of alleged COVID-19 relief fraud in these enforcement actions reached $10.9 million.
Specific Cases in the Southern District of Georgia
Several specific cases in the Southern District of Georgia highlight the efforts taken to prosecute individuals involved in COVID-19 relief fraud. These cases include:
Case 1: Kamario Thomas
Kamario Thomas, a resident of Augusta, Georgia, was sentenced to 38 months in prison for Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud and Money Laundering. Thomas submitted over 60 fraudulent loan applications for pandemic relief and received kickbacks totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. He was ordered to pay full restitution in the amount of $4,546,945.
Case 2: Bernard Okojie
Bernard Okojie, a resident of McDonough, Georgia, was convicted of Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud and Money Laundering after a three-day jury trial. Okojie filed more than 20 fraudulent loan applications for pandemic relief aid using information for non-existent companies, resulting in losses exceeding $3.5 million. He awaits sentencing.
Case 3: Jacqueline Somesso
Jacqueline Somesso, a resident of Savannah, Georgia, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for Bank Fraud and Misprision of a felony. Somesso submitted a fake pandemic relief loan application, causing losses amounting to $570,736.87. She was ordered to pay restitution in this amount and forfeit a money judgment. The court also entered a consent order forfeiting her interest in a certificate of deposit and a bank account containing fraud money seized during the investigation.
Case 4: Kyle Waldron
Kyle Waldron, a resident of Douglas, Georgia, received a civil forfeiture complaint related to his filing of numerous fraudulent loan applications for pandemic relief aid. The complaint seeks forfeiture of $326,461.33, the amount of fraud money seized from his bank account.
Civil Forfeiture Complaints
In addition to the specific cases, civil forfeiture complaints were filed regarding two assets. The first complaint targeted Kyle Waldron and sought the forfeiture of $326,461.33, the amount of fraud money seized from his bank account. The second complaint concerned an Atlanta condominium on Peachtree Road Northwest, valued at $328,000, which was purchased using fraudulently obtained pandemic relief loans.
Reporting Fraud Involving COVID-19
To report allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19, individuals can contact the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or use the NCDF Web Complaint Form at https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
Law Enforcement Agencies Involved
Multiple law enforcement agencies were involved in the enforcement actions against COVID-19 relief fraud. These agencies include:
- Department of the Army Criminal Investigation Division
- Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations
- U.S. Secret Service
- U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration
- Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General
- U.S. Postal Inspection Service
- U.S. Department of Labor Office of Inspector General
Assistant U.S. Attorneys and Senior Litigation Counsel
The enforcement actions were prosecuted for the United States by the following Assistant U.S. Attorneys and Senior Litigation Counsel:
- Matthew A. Josephson
- Jennifer A. Stanley
- Ryan C. Grover
- Lindsay Berman-Hansell
- J. Bishop Ravenel
- Alex Hamner
- Marcella Mateo
- David H. Estes
- Jennifer G. Solari
For further information, individuals can contact Barry L. Paschal, Public Affairs Officer, at [phone number]. The article also provides the date of the most recent update.
For general inquiries about government services, individuals can contact USA.gov through their website.