Swainsboro woman COVID aid fraud through bogus business
SWAINSBORO, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - An Emanuel County woman has admitted creating a fake business and using it to receive funding from a federal COVID-19 small business relief program.
Tracy Kirkland, 40, of Swainsboro, pleaded guilty to wire fraud, said David H. Estes, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.
The charge carries a maximum statutory penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
As a result of the guilty plea, Kirkland agrees to repay $66,400 and will forfeit a 2019 Dodge Charger and $16,250. After any prison term, Kirkland could be required to spend up to three years on supervised release.
In August 2020, Kirkland received a federally guaranteed loan for $66,400 under the U.S. Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program made up of funds appropriated by the CARES Act. In applying for the funding, Kirkland falsely claimed to own a business in Swainsboro with three employees, “Kirklands Hair N Beauty,” that had suffered economic harm because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Soon after receiving the SBA loan proceeds into her personal account, Kirkland, a previously convicted felon, used the funds to purchase a 2019 Dodge Charger R/T, made large cash withdrawals from her bank account and made other non-business-related purchases.
“Congress provided funding under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Security (CARES) Act specifically to help financially struggling businesses during the pandemic,” Estes said. “Tracy Kirkland stole from those funds, and she is being held accountable for that theft.”
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