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Seventeen other people have been charged in connection with a fraudulent scheme to obtain approximately $11.1 million in PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loans and use those funds to purchase luxury vehicles, jewelry and other personal items.

According to court documents and court testimonies, between May and August 2020, the defendants filed or helped file PPP loan applications on behalf of 14 companies seeking approximately $800,000 in loans to each company . In the loan applications, the defendants certified that each applicant company was in operation as of February 15, 2020 and had employees for whom it paid salaries and payroll taxes or paid independent contractors; that the funds would be used to retain employees and maintain payrolls or to make mortgage interest, lease payments and utility bills; and that the information provided in the application and all supporting documents was true and accurate in all material respects.

In the PPP loan applications, each company said it had about 60 employees and about $300,000 in average monthly payroll costs. To support these salary figures, each company’s loan application was accompanied by an IRS Form 941, which employers use to report payroll taxes. But in reality every Form 941 was fraudulent.

After the PPP loan proceeds were deposited into the companies’ accounts, the funds were distributed to conspirators through a series of transactions designed to disguise the origin of the funds and the use of the funds. The defendants and co-conspirators used the PPP loan proceeds to purchase luxury items including two Range Rovers, an Acura NSX and a Mercedes Benz S-Class S65 AMG.

Seventeen other defendants charged

Fourteen defendants were charged in a first replacement indictment unsealed July 14, including:

Ricky Dixon, 52, of Warren, Michigan, is charged with conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud, false information to a federally insured financial institution, aggravated identity theft and money laundering in connection with his involvement in the loan made by his company RK Painting Co. and loans from several other companies.

Meghan Thomas, 32, of Alpharetta, Georgia, is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud and false information to a government-insured financial institution in connection with her involvement in multiple corporate loans.

Jesika Blakely, 34, of Atlanta, Georgia, is charged with conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud, misrepresentation to a federally insured financial institution and money laundering in connection with her involvement in multiple corporate loans.

Amanda Christian, 33, of Blythewood, South Carolina, is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud and false information to a federally insured financial institution in connection with her involvement in the loan she received from her company, Publicity and Then Some Inc. and loans from several other companies.

Dwan Ashong, aka Dwan Gilpin, 40, of Jacksonville, Fla., is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and money laundering in connection with her involvement in multiple company loans.

John Gaines, aka Marty Gaines, 56, of Marietta, Georgia, is charged with conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud, false information to a federally insured financial institution and money laundering in connection with the loan received from Gaines Reservations and Travel.

Charles Petty, aka Charles Knight, 48, of Atlanta, Georgia, is charged with conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud, false information to a government-insured financial institution, and money laundering in connection with the loan received from Transportation Management Services Inc.

Jerry Baptiste, 43, of College Park, Georgia, is charged with conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud, false information to a federally insured financial institution and money laundering in connection with the loan received from Transportation Management Services Inc.

Derek Parker, 56, of Rochester Hills, Michigan, is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and money laundering in connection with the D Parker Holdings Inc.

David Belgrave II, 49, of Lexington, South Carolina, is charged with conspiracy to commit bank and wire fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud, false information to a federally insured financial institution, and money laundering in connection with the loan he received from business, Continuing Success Inc.

Charles Hill IV, 45, of Norcross, Georgia, is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and money laundering in connection with the loan received from his company, Infinite Education Services Inc.

Ryan Whittley, 35, of South Holland, Illinois, is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and money laundering in connection with the loan received from his company ML Exotic Customs Inc.

El Hadj Sall, 39, of Jacksonville, Fla., is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering in connection with the crime spree operated by his company, Bellevie Corp.

Rick McDuffie, 50, of Little Rock, South Carolina, is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud in connection with the loan received from his company, Mickies Auto and Tire LLC.

Three other defendants were charged based on criminal information:

Teldrin Foster, 39, of Decatur, Georgia, is facing charges of conspiracy related to the Bellator Phront Group Inc.

Denesseria Slaton, 52, of Stockbridge, Georgia, is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud in connection with the loan received from Transportation Management Services Inc.

Charmaine Redding, 27, of Macomb, Michigan, is charged with conspiracy to connect her company, All-Star Room and Board Services of Michigan Inc.

Another defendant, Carla Jackson, 53, of Tucker, Georgia, was previously charged on August 4, 2020 by money laundering charges in connection with laundering the proceeds of the Gaines Reservation and Travel PPP loan.

If convicted, the defendants face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for wire fraud and money laundering and a maximum of 30 years for bank fraud and false testimony from a state-insured bank. Dixon also faces an additional two-year sentence on charges of aggravated identity theft. A federal district court judge will determine the sentence after considering US sentencing guidelines and other legal factors.

Six plead guilty, including Mastermind

Six defendants have pleaded guilty to their roles in the fraudulent scheme since the original indictment was returned on August 4, 2020, including mastermind Darrell Thomas, and one defendant has been convicted so far:

Darrell Thomas, 35, of Duluth, Georgia, pleaded guilty June 16 to one charge of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud and one charge of money laundering. As part of his guilty plea, Darrell Thomas admitted his involvement in fraudulent conduct totaling more than $14.7 million, including approximately $11.2 million in fraudulent PPP loans, more than $1.15 million in dollars in fraudulent economic damage loans and more than $2.4 million in fraudulent auto loans. He also agreed to forfeit various assets, including more than $2.1 million in confiscated funds, three luxury vehicles — a 2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class S65AMG, a 2018 Land Rover Range Rover and an Acura NSX from 2017 – and several pieces of jewelry. including a gold Rolex. Darrell Thomas’ sentencing is scheduled for September 15 before Judge JP Boulee.

Denesseria Slaton pleaded guilty June 16 to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud related to the loan received from Transportation Management Services Inc. Slaton’s sentencing is scheduled for October 6th.

Khalil Gibran Green Sr., 47, of Cleveland, Ohio, pleaded guilty on September 1, 2020 to count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud in connection with the loan received from his company, Impact Creations LLC. On January 14, Judge JP Boulee sentenced Green to three years and five months in prison and five years supervised release, and ordered him to pay $830,000 in restitution and forfeit $157,035.71.

Bern Benoit, 45, of Burbank, Calif., pleaded guilty March 11 to one count of bank fraud and wire fraud conspiracy related to the loan he received from his company, Transportation Management Services Inc. 8, before Judge JP Boulee.

Charmaine Redding pleaded guilty on July 14 to one count of wire fraud conspiracy related to the loan she received from Michigan Inc. by her company, All-Star Room and Board Services. Redding’s sentencing is scheduled for October 21 before Judge JP Boulee.

Andre Lee Gaines, 67, of Dallas, Georgia, pleaded guilty June 17 to one count of making false statements to the FBI related to the loan he received from his company, Gaines Reservation and Travel. Andre Gaines’ sentencing is scheduled for October 6 before Judge JP Boulee.

The announcement was made by Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Acting US Attorney Kurt R. Erskine of the Northern District of Georgia.

This case is being investigated by the FBI, the US Treasury Department’s Inspector General for Tax Administration and the Small Business Administration Office of the Inspector General.

Trial Attorney Siji Moore of the CID’s Fraud Division and Assistant US Attorneys Tal Chaiken and Nathan Kitchens of the Northern District of Georgia are prosecuting the case.

On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to pool the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to increase efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force is increasing efforts to identify and prosecute the most guilty national and international criminal actors and assisting agencies tasked with administering fraud prevention assistance programs, including by expanding and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques for detecting fraudulent actors and their systems, and sharing and utilizing information and lessons learned from previous enforcement efforts.



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