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Man pleads guilty to COVID fraud in Statesboro federal court
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An Augusta man plead guilty in Statesboro Federal Court last week to conducting a scheme to submit fraudulent applications for COVID-19 small business relief funding that netted more than $4 million in payments.

Kamario Thomas, 42, of Augusta is charged by a criminal Information with conspiracy, said David H. Estes, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.

The guilty plea made inside the Prince H. Preston Federal Building on North Main St. to the felony charge subjects Thomas to a statutory penalty of up to five years in federal prison followed by up to three years of supervised release, along with substantial financial penalties and restitution to the U.S. government. There is no parole in the federal system.

“This conviction represents the continuing, vigorous pursuit of those who undeservedly accessed government funding for struggling small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Estes said. “In collaboration with our law enforcement partners, we will hold responsible those who attempt to illegally profit from these programs.”

The 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided more than $650 billion in funding for qualifying small businesses facing financial challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, with grants and forgivable loans available through the Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) or Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL).

In his plea agreement, Thomas admited that he completed false and fraudulent EIDL applications for himself, and that he received hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks in return for completing and submitting fraudulent PPP and EIDL applications on behalf of his co-conspirators. To create those applications, Thomas fabricated IRS forms and tax records.

In total, the scheme caused the disbursement of more than $4 million in fraudulent CARES Act loans and grants.

“In far too many cases, greedy opportunists took advantage of the PPP, diverting much-needed funds away from those businesses that desperately needed it,” said James E. Dorsey, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Atlanta Field Office. “This plea signals the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force will continue pursuing and holding accountable those who chose greed over compassion for their fellow Americans who faced economic distress during the COVID pandemic.”

“CARES Act funds were intended to help people and businesses harmed by the pandemic, not to line the pockets of overly greedy professionals,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “The FBI is continuing to work with our partners to do everything in our power to make sure stolen funds are returned to the public, and individuals who were involved in this type of criminal behavior are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” 

Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 may report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: 

https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

 

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