A New Jersey woman has been sentenced to 60 months in prison, five years of supervised release, and ordered to pay $3.18 million in restitution and forfeit $1.03 million for her role in a scheme to fraudulently obtain 30 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) totaling over $3 million, meant to support small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rhonda Thomas, 38, of Sicklerville, New Jersey, pleaded guilty by videoconference on June 28, 2022, before U.S. District Judge Karen M. Williams to an information charging her with one count of bank fraud conspiracy and one count of money laundering.
The PPP and EIDL programs were designed to provide much-needed financial support to small businesses struggling during the pandemic.
The funds were intended to help businesses keep their workforce employed, cover expenses, and maintain operations. However, fraudulent cases like Thomas’s undermine the integrity of these programs and divert resources away from genuine businesses in need.
Thomas’s sentencing serves as a reminder to small business owners about the importance of maintaining transparency and integrity when applying for government relief programs. Misusing these funds can lead to severe consequences, including criminal charges, prison time, and substantial financial penalties. It is crucial for small business owners to adhere to the guidelines and requirements of government relief programs and to use the funds for their intended purposes.
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