A Nigerian woman is facing a maximum of 30-year jail term in the United States for a $1.9 COVID-19 relief fund fraud.
A federal jury convicted Lola Shalewa Barbara Kasali, a 24-year-old Texas resident on Wednesday for defrauding the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) of over $1.9 million in loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
United States Department of Justice (DoJ) said court documents showed that Kasali submitted two fraudulent loan applications to two different lenders on behalf of her companies, Lola’s Level and Charm Hair Extensions.
DoJ disclosed that “through these loan applications, Kasali sought over $3.8 million in PPP loan funds. Kasali falsely represented the number of employees and payroll expenses in each of the PPP loan applications.”
“To support these applications, Kasali also submitted fraudulent tax records. Kasali ultimately received over $1.9 million in PPP loan funds.”
The Justice Department, along with its law enforcement partners, seized the funds that Kasali fraudulently obtained.
Kasali was convicted of two counts of making false statements to a financial institution and two counts of bank fraud. She is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 25, 2022, and faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison for each count of conviction.
A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
While FHFA-OIG, SBA-OIG, and the USPIS investigated the case, Assistant Chief Jonathan Robell of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Trial Attorney Matthew Grisier of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Forfeiture Section are prosecuting the case, with assistance from Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim McAlister of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
The Fraud Section leads the Criminal Division’s prosecution of fraud schemes that exploit the PPP. Since the inception of the CARES Act, the Fraud Section has prosecuted over 150 defendants in more than 95 criminal cases and has seized over $75 million in cash proceeds derived from fraudulently obtained PPP funds, as well as numerous real estate properties and luxury items purchased with such proceeds.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with government agencies to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. T
The Task Force investigates and prosecutes the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts.