Description: Sponkane, Washington criminal defense lawyer represented Defendant charged with fraudulently obtaining $337,267 in COVID-19 relief funds.
On March 27, 2020, the President signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act. The CARES Act provided a number of programs through which eligible small businesses could request and obtain relief funding intended to mitigate the economic impacts of the pandemic for small and local businesses. One such program, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), provided government-backed funding to small businesses which could be forgiven so long as the proceeds were used for payroll and other eligible expenses. Another program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, provided low interest loans that could be deferred until the conclusion of the pandemic to provide “bridge” funding for small businesses to maintain their operations during shutdowns and other economic circumstances caused by the pandemic. The PPP and EIDL programs have provided billions of dollars in aid, the vast majority of which have not been paid back, including hundreds of millions of dollars disbursed within Eastern Washington.
“COVID-19 relief programs were designed to lift up our community during crisis, and because of the number of people and businesses that requested funding, deserving small businesses were not able to obtain desperately needed funding,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref. “We created the Eastern Washington COVID-19 Fraud Strike Force because combatting pandemic-related fraud and holding those accountable who abused these programs is critical to the strength and safety of our community in Eastern Washington. The Strike Force works to ensure that limited resources are used to protect our local small businesses and the critical jobs and services that they provide for the community.”
In February 2022, U.S. Attorney Waldref and the U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) began working with federal law enforcement agencies to create and launch a COVID-19 Fraud Strike Force that would leverage partnerships between different agencies to aggressively investigate and prosecute fraud against COVID-19 relief programs in Eastern Washington. The Strike Force consists of agency representatives from the USAO, Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Inspector General (OIG), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Department of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs OIG, General Services Administration OIG, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) OIG, Internal Revenue Service, Department of Energy OIG, and others.
According to court documents and information disclosed during court proceedings, Jimia Rae Cain, age 52, of West Richland, Washington, fraudulently obtained $337,267 in CARES Act funding – a $71,900 EIDL and a $265,267 PPP – in July and August of 2020 in the name of her purported business Americore Construction. According to court documents, Cain used false statements and fictitious tax and payroll documentation in order to obtain the funds. In truth, Americore was not an active business during the relevant time period, did not have any employees, and was not eligible for any federal funding.
In addition to the 15-month prison sentence, Cain was sentenced to 3 years of federal supervision following her release, and is required to repay full restitution of $337,267.
“This sentence demonstrates that falsifying information to gain access to taxpayer dollars will not be overlooked and wrongdoers will be brought to justice,” said SBA OIG’s Western Region Acting Special Agent in Charge Keven Standley. “I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners for their dedication and pursuit of justice.
“I commend the stellar investigative work on these cases performed by the Strike Force and especially in this case by SBA OIG and TIGTA” said U.S. Attorney Waldref. “We will continue to work together with our law enforcement partners to vigorously prosecute those who abuse and misuse COVID-19 relief funding, and to strengthen our communities by protecting our small and local businesses.”
This case was investigated by the Eastern District of Washington COVID-19 Fraud Strike Force and by the SBA OIG and TIGTA. Assistant United States Attorneys Dan Fruchter and Tyler Tornabene prosecuted this case on behalf of the United States.
18 U.S.C. § 287 FALSE, FICTITIOUS, OR FRAUDULENT CLAIMS
"Whoever makes or presents to any person or officer in the civil, military, or naval service of the United States, or to any department or agency thereof, any claim upon or against the United States, or any department or agency thereof, knowing such claim to be false, fictitious, or fraudulent, shall be imprisoned not more than five years and shall be subject to a fine in the amount provided in this title."
Outcome: Imprisonment: 15 months; Supervised Release: 3 years; Special Penalty Assessment: $100; Fine: Waived; Restitution: $337,267.00