Three former St. Louis residents indicted for fraudulently obtaining $229K in PPP loans

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Three former residents of the St. Louis area accused of fraudulently obtaining $229,000 in pandemic loans in 2021 surrendered to authorities Monday in Fresno, California, where they currently reside.

Brianna L. Bell-Maple, 23, Jemyla A. Bell, 38, and Leiah A. Vaughn, 22, were each indicted on March 27 in U.S. District Court in St. Louis on two felony counts of wire fraud. The indictment alleges they submitted 11 fraudulent applications for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, designed to assist small businesses in maintaining their workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the indictment, the trio falsely claimed the PPP loans were for women’s clothing businesses at addresses in St. Louis and on Scott Air Force Base in Illinois, despite no such businesses existing. They also submitted false tax documents to support their applications, which secured a total of $229,163 in PPP loans.

The funds were allegedly spent on rent, shopping, dining, bills, travel, loan repayments, pet store purchases, and vehicles.

Charges in an indictment are merely accusations and do not prove guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Each wire fraud charge could result in up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted the case investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Clow is handling the prosecution.

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