May 21, 2022

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Oakland Woman Sentenced To Three Years In Million Dollar Pandemic Relief Fraud | USAO-NDCA

OAKLAND – A federal courtroom sentenced Christina Stress right now to 36 months in prison subsequent her guilty pleas to two counts of bank fraud and two counts of funds laundering, introduced U.S. Attorney Stephanie M. Hinds U.S. Department of the Treasury, Treasury Inspector Standard for Tax Administration (TIGTA) Unique Agent in Demand Rod Ammari Inner Earnings Services, Prison Investigation (IRS-CI) Exclusive Agent in Cost Mark H. Pearson and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Cost Craig D. Reasonable.  The sentence was handed down by United States District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers.    

Christina Burden, 32, of Oakland, was at first charged on February 3, 2021, in a federal grievance alleging lender fraud in obtaining pandemic reduction funds from the federal government’s Paycheck Safety System (PPP) and Economic Injury Catastrophe Mortgage System (EIDL) for her shell entity “Blessing Box Co LLC.”  This entity was among the multiple shell entities, together with the “Burden Consulting Group LLC,” that Stress utilized in her fraud scheme.  As outlined in the complaint, the PPP is administered by the U.S. Compact Enterprise Administration as portion of the Coronavirus Help, Relief, and Financial Stability (CARES) Act.  The CARES Act was enacted by the U.S. Congress in March of 2020 to offer crisis money support to tens of millions of Us residents suffering from dire financial consequences caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.  PPP loan proceeds had been dispersed to faltering businesses for confined, identified business enterprise bills these types of as payroll prices, home finance loan fascination, rents, and utilities. The PPP allowed the fascination and principal on a PPP financial loan to be completely forgiven if the business enterprise used the financial loan proceeds on permissible small business charges and utilised at minimum 60% of the PPP mortgage proceeds on payroll fees.  Similarly, the EIDL Method furnished reduced-interest financial loans to small enterprises in areas afflicted by disasters, and EIDL money became out there to all states and territories because of to the magnitude and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic.   

In her plea agreement, Load admitted she registered numerous fictitious organizations with the California Secretary of State, then modified paperwork by inserting incorrect dates relating to the purported organization operations in get to qualify the fictitious corporations for loans from the PPP or EIDL programs.  Along with her fraudulent programs to the aid plans, Stress submitted pretend IRS tax files, these as bogus IRS Form 940 and IRS W-3 varieties.  The IRS tax paperwork contained wrong statements about the selection of organization staff, payroll fees, and wages paid out, amongst other untrue statements.  Stress admitted in her plea agreement she was aware that the availability and total of PPP and EIDL financial loans was tied to the creation and operational dates of the organizations, the staff quantities, and the payroll expenditures, and that she intentionally misrepresented all of that details.  In overall, Stress fraudulently claimed she had 89 workers and a month to month payroll of a lot more than $700,000 in her fictitious corporations, according to federal government documentation.

In overall, Load attempted to receive more than $4.5 million in pandemic reduction financial loans.  She admitted that she actually acquired $992,291 in fraudulent-acquired PPP loans and $150,900 in fraudulently attained EIDL loans and advancements.

After acquiring the fraudulently obtained bank loan proceeds, Burden used the funds for a buying spree of high-close luxury products and companies.  In a transient submitted for the sentencing listening to, the govt outlined that Burden put in $184,000 on private jet journey, other airfare, and lodge expenditures $124,000 on luxury buys from Louis Vuitton, Neiman Marcus, and Nordstrom $16,000 on boat and car rentals and $14,000 on restaurants and leisure.  One more $150,000 was invested on Mercedes, Land Rover, and Nissan vehicles.

In addition to the 36 month jail sentence imposed for bank fraud and funds laundering, United States District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers requested that Stress fork out restitution in the sum of $1,143,191.  The sentence also provided a a few 12 months period of time of supervision next Burden’s release from prison.  Stress was requested to surrender into custody to begin her sentence on April 7.

Abraham Wonderful is the Assistant U.S. Attorney who is prosecuting the scenario with the guidance of Kay Konopaske and Laurie Worthen.  The prosecution is the outcome of an investigation by TIGTA, IRS-CI, the FBI, and the U.S. Small Small business Administration, Business of the Inspector Common (SBA-OIG).