City of Mount Vernon employee, daughter and former resident face charges for allegedly using the COVID-19 pandemic to defraud the government on more than $ 1.6 million in small business loans , then accept bribes.
Andrea Ayers, a civilian employee of the Mount Vernon Police Department, and her daughter, Alicia Ayers, who operates a travel agency, were arrested in the town on Tuesday March 23 for allegedly submitting requests from more than 300 people for claim federal business loans. that was not eligible.
A third suspect, Traci Proctor, who also worked in the Mount Vernon city government before moving south, was also arrested in Georgia on Tuesday.
U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said the three women were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, misrepresentation and aggravated identity theft in a scheme to defraud Small US Business Administration (SBA), over $ 1.6. million.
During the pandemic, Congress expanded the SBA’s Economic Disaster Lending Program to provide small businesses with low-interest loans of up to $ 2 million by May of last year, and up to $ 150,000 from May 2020 to “provide vital economic support to help overcome the loss of income small businesses are experiencing due to COVID-19.” ”
It is alleged that in June and July 2020, Ayers and Proctor used the identities of approximately 300 other people to submit 315 online applications to the SBA seeking more than $ 3 million in funding under the program.
Strauss said on the apps, all three would incorrectly report the number of employees working for the alleged companies, most of which never existed at all.
Based on the fraudulent claims, the SBA made advance payments of approximately $ 1,690,000 to the “claimants” who then returned part of the money to the three women, typically between $ 1,000 and $ 5,000 each.
“As alleged, the defendants conspired to defraud the SBA by submitting disaster loan and grant applications for non-existent companies,” Strauss said. “In doing so, they stole funds intended for the many small businesses that are suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Alicia Ayers, 34, Andrea Ayers, 54, and Proctor, 47, have been charged with:
- Conspiracy to commit electronic fraud
- Electronic fraud;
- Make false statements;
- Aggravated identity theft.
‘As small businesses across the country clamored for the economic support they so desperately needed after the first quarter of the pandemic, those charged today reportedly viewed the SBA’s Economic Disaster Lending Program as a simple opportunity to make a quick profit ”. FBI Deputy Director William Sweeney said.
“As alleged, Ayers, Ayers and Proctor have filed over 300 online claims on behalf of others which contained false information to support their claims.
“This resulted in almost $ 1.7 million in payments from the SBA, part of which was received by the defendants in the form of bribes,” Sweeney continued. “No matter how creative the scheme is, rest assured those who siphon off taxpayers’ money. The programs will be pursued aggressively. This investigation is still ongoing.”
The two Ayers appeared in White Plains court Tuesday afternoon and were released on $ 150,000 bail. Proctor was also scheduled to appear in federal court in Georgia.
If found guilty of the highest charge, the three women face up to 20 years in prison.
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