Two Missouri residents plead guilty to COVID fraud conspiracy

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Two Missouri residents have pleaded guilty in federal court to their roles in a conspiracy to obtain fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans being issued under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Deanna N. Brand, 27, Raytown, waived her right to a grand jury and pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Brian C. Wimes to a federal information that charges her with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. In a separate but related case, Jason Collins, 26, Raytown, pleaded guilty on Thursday, May 18, to the same offense.

Brand and Collins each admitted they participated in a conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Small Business Administration from April 2021 through January 2022.

Both Brand and Collins provided their personal identification information to a co-conspirator, who then submitted fraudulent applications for PPP loans in their names. The applications falsely claimed business income in order to receive a $20,832 loan, although neither Brand nor Collins had a business during that time.

Brand admitted she paid her co-conspirator $2,000, and spent the rest of the loan proceeds on personal expenses not associated with any business. Collins admitted he paid his co-conspirator $5,000 and spent the rest of the loan proceeds on personal expenses not associated with any business.

Under the terms of their plea agreements, Brand and Collins each must pay $20,832 in restitution to the government.

Under federal statutes, Brand and Collins each are subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendants will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of presentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.

These cases are being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul S. Becker. They were investigated by IRS-Criminal Investigation and the Kansas City, Mo., Police Department.

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