Same Story, Different Day

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Just as the acclaimed movie Groundhog Day portrays a monotonous, unpleasant, and repetitive situation, the growing number of articles about COVID-19 fraud related to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is becoming rather tedious to sort through. While the stories we see each day may be about different fraudsters, the plot line is the same – steal government money that was intended to help those negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. (Same story, different day.)

Keyaira Bostic, 32, of Pembroke Pines, Fla., jumped on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan bandwagon when she applied for funds to support her business, I Am Liquid Inc. As you might guess, she used false information about the company’s number of employees, average payroll, and bogus supporting tax and bank documents to secure the loan. (And voilà, she received $84,515 just like that.)

Bostic paid a pretty penny – $21,000 to be exact – to James Stote, an alleged co-conspirator to help her carry out her scam. He prepared and submitted the fake application for Bostic. Additional evidence in this case showed that Bostic referred other customers to Stote who also submitted fraudulent PPP loan applications for them. Bostic received kickbacks from Stote for directing additional illegal business his way. (There was a lot of back scratching going on there.) Stote’s loan applications obtained nearly $2 million in PPP loan proceeds for those additional referrals.

A federal jury in Fort Lauderdale found Bostic guilty of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and three counts of wire fraud but she was not found guilty of bank fraud. When sentenced in February, she faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for each count of conviction.

The COVI-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force is doing their best to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. If you know of anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19, you can 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.

(Let’s hope that the end is in sight for COVID-19-related fraud and for the pandemic as well.)

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from a Department of Justice press release, “South Florida Federal Jury Convicts Woman of COVID-19 Relief Fraud,” dated November 30, 2021.

Miami, Florida – A federal jury in Fort Lauderdale found a 32-year-old Florida woman guilty of conspiracy and wire fraud for fraudulently obtaining a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Keyaira Bostic, of Pembroke Pines, obtained a PPP loan of $84,515 for her company, I Am Liquid Inc., based on false information about the company’s number of employees and average payroll, and based on false supporting tax and bank documents.  Bostic also paid more than $21,000 to an alleged co-conspirator, James Stote, as a kickback for his assistance in preparing and submitting the fraudulent loan application.  The evidence also showed that Bostic, in exchange for kickbacks, referred other co-conspirators to the scheme on whose behalf Stote submitted fraudulent PPP loan applications.  Those loan applicants sought more than $3.3 million in fraudulent PPP loans and obtained nearly $2 million in PPP loan proceeds.

 

 

 

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.