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Missouri woman pleads guilty to fraudulently obtaining $104K in pandemic loans

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(The Center Square) – A Missouri woman admitted to fraudulently obtaining federal pandemic loans for $104,163, according to information from the U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Missouri.

Camille Foster, 32, pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud on Tuesday in U.S. District Court. She admitted to obtaining five Paycheck Protection Program loans between May 2020 and November 2021. The federal loan program was created to assist small businesses struggling to continue operating during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The wire fraud charge is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both prison and a fine. Foster is scheduled to be sentenced on July 18. The U.S. attorney stated Foster also agreed to a $104,163 money judgment.

Foster applied for loans for three businesses: Humble Hearts Home Healthcare, LLC, Embellished Jewels, LLC, and Muse Me Boutique, LLC. Foster used someone else’s name and Social Security number on the application for Muse Me Boutique and then signed the person’s name on the document without the person’s knowledge or authorization.

The three businesses weren’t operating at the time she applied for the loans and she filed fraudulent tax forms to support the applications. She knowingly misrepresented payroll expenses and the annual income of the businesses, according to court documents.

Foster requested approximately $20,000 in each application. Lenders approved the applications and transferred the money into Foster’s bank accounts based on the false information she provided.

Information from the U.S. attorney stated Foster spent the money on personal retail purchases, dining, cosmetic surgery, bill payments, travel, tax payments and payments to others.

The PPP loans were forgivable if employment levels were maintained and wages remained at pre-pandemic levels for two to six months following the acceptance of the money. Foster submitted fraudulent applications for loan forgiveness from the federal government’s Small Business Administration for many of the loans she received, falsely stating she spent most or all the money on payroll costs.

Last month, the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated $236 billion in improper payments were made in fiscal year 2023, a decrease of approximately $11 billion from the previous year. The Paycheck Protection Program Loan Forgiveness accounted for $19 billion in improper payments in 2023. The federal agency reported improper payments peaked at $281.4 billion in fiscal year 2021 during the pandemic.

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