Shaquandra Woods, a 40-year-old attorney from Jacksonville, Florida, has been found guilty of Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud in connection with a scheme to illegally obtain funding from the federal COVID-19 small business relief program. The verdict came after a four-day trial in U.S. District Court, according to Jill E. Steinberg, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.
Woods, licensed to practice law in both Florida and Georgia, faced charges for fabricating and submitting false documents to complete at least nine applications for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The act allocated over $6 billion to assist struggling small businesses affected by the pandemic.
As authorized by the CARES Act, the Small Business Administration (SBA) provided EIDLs to eligible small businesses facing financial disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Woods attempted to secure nearly $800,000 in COVID-19 funding through fraudulent applications and successfully obtained more than $300,000 for herself and others involved in the conspiracy.
If sentenced, Woods could face up to 20 years in prison, along with significant financial penalties and restitution. The conviction also includes a period of supervised release upon completion of any prison term, as there is no parole in the federal system.
U.S. Attorney Steinberg emphasized the importance of holding individuals accountable for fraudulent activities related to CARES Act funds. She highlighted that this year alone, the office has prosecuted defendants responsible for over $11 million in CARES Act fraud.
U.S. District Court Judge R. Stan Baker will schedule Woods’ sentencing after a pre-sentence investigation by U.S. Probation Services.
Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, underscored that fraud against the CARES Act amounts to theft from American taxpayers. The FBI, in collaboration with law enforcement partners, remains committed to investigating and prosecuting those taking advantage of relief programs meant to aid struggling Americans.
SBA-OIG’s Eastern Region Special Agent-in-Charge Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite expressed gratitude to the U.S. Attorney’s office and law enforcement partners for their dedication to pursuing justice in the case. The investigation is a joint effort between the FBI and the Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General.
Anyone with information about allegations of 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 the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.