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Nigerian woman sentenced to five years for coronavirus fraud in US

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A 24-year Nigerian woman has been sentenced to 70 months in prison over attempt to defraud the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) of more than $1.9 million in loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The United States Department of Justice (DoJ) in a statement said court documents and evidence presented at trial showed that Lola Shalewa Barbara Kasali submitted two fraudulent loan applications to two different lenders on behalf of her companies, Lola’s Level and Charm Hair Extensions.

“Through these loan applications, Kasali sought over $3.8 million in PPP loan funds. Kasali falsely represented the number of employees and payroll expenses in each of the PPP loan applications. To support these applications, Kasali also submitted fraudulent tax records. Kasali ultimately received over $1.9 million in PPP loan funds,” DoJ said.

“The Justice Department, along with its law enforcement partners, seized the funds that Kasali fraudulently obtained.”

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Kasali was found guilty of two counts bank fraud and two counts of making false statements to a financial institution on Dec. 8, 2021, by a federal jury in Houston.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Jennifer Lowery for the Southern District of Texas; Special Agent in Charge Catherine Huber of the Federal Housing Finance Agency Office of Inspector General (FHFA-OIG) – Central Region; Special Agent in Charge Sharon Johnson of the SBA Office of Inspector General (SBA-OIG) – Central Region; and Acting Inspector in Charge Dana Carter of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service – Houston Division made the announcement.

The case was investigated by FHFA-OIG, SBA-OIG, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

In December 2021, the DoJ said Kasali was convicted of two counts of making false statements to a financial institution and two counts of bank fraud.

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She was thereafter scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 25, 2022, and faced a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison for each count of conviction prior to the sentencing.

The Fraud Section leads the Criminal Division’s prosecution of fraud schemes that exploit the PPP. Since the inception of the CARES Act, the Fraud Section has prosecuted over 150 defendants in more than 95 criminal cases and has seized over $75 million in cash proceeds derived from fraudulently obtained PPP funds, as well as numerous real estate properties and luxury items purchased with such proceeds.

On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with government agencies to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud.

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