SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A Springfield, Illinois man, Charles Jones, 26, of the 500 block of North 13th Street in Springfield, Illinois, was sentenced on July 27, 2022, for COVID-19 wire fraud. He was sentenced to five months’ imprisonment to be followed by three years of supervised release that includes three months’ home confinement.
At the sentencing hearing, the government presented evidence that Jones applied for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (“EIDL”) from the U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”). The loan was funded through the CARES Act in response to the global pandemic caused by COVID-19. The EIDL funds were intended to provide low interest loans to businesses that were unable to cover fixed costs due to the pandemic. In the loan application, Jones fraudulently affirmed that he operated an apparel business, “Just Like Jilla,” that employed eleven people and had gross revenues of $1,200,000 for the twelve months prior to January 31, 2020. The representations were false as Jones did not operate a business or employ anyone. The fraud was reported by a local credit union and the funds eventually returned to the SBA.
At the hearing, United States District Judge Sue E. Myerscough admonished Jones that his actions prevented the funds from going to small business that were devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jones was indicted in December of 2020 and plead guilty in March of 2022.
The statutory penalties for wire fraud are up to 20 years imprisonment, up to a $250,000 fine, and up to 3 years of supervised release.
“We appreciate the efforts of law enforcement and local financial institutions who have helped identify individuals who have fraudulently obtained pandemic related funds,” stated Assistant United States Attorney, Sierra Senor-Moore.
If members of the public are aware of COVID-19 related loans that they suspect were fraudulently obtained or forgiven, they should report it to the Office of Inspector General for the Small Business Administration, 1-800-767-0385, or online at https://sbax.sba.gov/oigcss/. Reports can be made anonymously.
The case was investigated by Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigations. Assistant United States Attorney Sierra Senor-Moore represented the government in the prosecution.