Charleston, South Carolina — Lori Hammond, 53, of Summerville, Catherine (“Cassie”) Needham, 36, of Manning, Jontrell Wright, 35, of Holly Hill, and Christopher Conrad, 39, of Holly Hill, all pleaded guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud, in connection with their role in fraudulently obtaining millions of dollars in PPP loans.
Evidence presented to the Court showed that from June 2020 or around January 2021, Lori Hammond caused several materially fraudulent PPP loan applications to be submitted to federally insured financial institutions on her behalf and on behalf of her co-conspirators. . In these loan applications, Hammond used the identity of a deceased person, misrepresented the number of employees and salary expenses of the entities applying for the loans, attached fraudulent tax documents, and made numerous other false and misleading statements. As part of the conspiracy, Hammond aided Needham, Conrad, and Wright by filling out loan application documents with materially false and fraudulent information and then submitting them to someone in California. The individual in California would in turn submit the fraudulent loan applications to financial institutions in exchange for a commission. Based on the misrepresentations and submissions in the applications, approved PPP lenders funded the PPP loans. Once the funds were deposited into the respective accounts, Hammond, Wright, Needham and Conrad used the funds for non-qualifying, non-business purposes, including homes, property, cars and other personal purchases.
In total, the conspiracy members fraudulently obtained $4,721,638.50 in PPP loan funds.
The defendants all face a maximum sentence of 20 years in federal prison. They also face a fine of up to $250,000, restitution and 3 years of supervision following the jail sentence. United States District Judge David C. Norton accepted the guilty plea and will sentence the defendants after receiving and reviewing a sentencing report prepared by the United States Probation Office.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to mobilize Department of Justice resources in partnership with government agencies to scale up enforcement and prevention efforts. pandemic-related fraud. The task force strengthens efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies administering relief programs to prevent fraud, among other methods, by increasing and integrating coordination mechanisms existing ones, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their agendas, and sharing and leveraging information and knowledge gained from previous enforcement efforts. For more information about the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about alleged attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline at 866-720-5721 or via NCDF’s online complaint form at: https://www. .justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Assistant US Attorney Emily Limehouse is pursuing the case.