Memphis, TN – A Memphis woman has been charged for her role in a fraudulent scheme to secure thousands of dollars in federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans for herself and others. Joseph C. Murphy Jr., United States Attorney, announced the indictment today.
On May 19, 2022, a federal grand jury indicted Kenyatta Danielle Hooper, 34, in a six-count indictment of wire fraud. Hooper was arrested on Friday, May 27, 2022.
According to the indictment, the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security) is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020, designed to provide emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans suffering from the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. . The act authorized up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses, through the PPP. In April 2020, Congress authorized over $300 billion in additional PPP funding.
Hooper engaged in a scheme to illegally obtain thousands of dollars in PPP money for herself and others through numerous misrepresentations to financial institutions. Hooper personally submitted and ordered others to submit fraudulent PPP loan applications. She also submitted false and forged documents in support of these claims. Hooper also received kickbacks from people she helped file fraudulent PPP loan applications. She further falsely certified that she would only use the PPP loan proceeds for authorized expenses – payroll, rent or mortgage payments and utilities – and instead spent the loan money on a Maserati automobile, personal trips , concerts and games of chance.
“Congress funded the P3 program to provide a financial lifeline to struggling small businesses in West Tennessee and across the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said U.S. Attorney Joseph C. Murphy. “Bad actors have unfortunately targeted this essential assistance program and fraudulently misappropriated much needed resources. Our office and law enforcement partners will investigate all allegations of unlawful use of these funds and pledge to ensure that federal taxpayers’ money is used for its intended purpose.
“The FBI is particularly interested in cases where individuals conspire for their own benefit, lining their own pockets at the expense of the public,” said Douglas M. Korneski, special agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Memphis Field Office. “Honest, law-abiding small business owners in this country should be assured by this indictment that the FBI is committed to working closely with its law enforcement partners to vigorously prosecute anyone who considers to use critical assistance loans for his own miserly desires. ”
“Conspiring to fraudulently use SBA program funds is unacceptable,” said Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite, Special Agent in Charge of SBA OIG. “OIG remains committed to weeding out bad actors and protecting the integrity of SBA programs. I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners for their dedication and pursuit of justice.
“The United States Secret Service Memphis Field Office assisted the Federal Bureau of Investigation in arresting suspect Kenyatta Hooper for COVID-19 Paycheck Protection Program fraud. This investigation and subsequent arrest further demonstrates the continued collaboration between the FBI and the Secret Service to combat financial crime,” said Carl B. Hagins, Special Agent in Charge (Memphis Field Office) of United States Secret Service.
Hooper faces up to 20 years in federal prison for each count of wire fraud. There is no parole in the federal system.
The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are only charges of criminal conduct, not evidence. The accused is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and convicted by due process.
The case was investigated by the FBI, the United States Small Business Administration and the United States Secret Service.
Assistant United States Attorney Tony Arvin is pursuing the case on behalf of the government.