2 metro Atlanta women charged with stealing millions in PPP money

Two metro Atlanta women have been indicted on charges of stealing Paycheck Protection Program money after officials say they filed false loan applications.
Two metro Atlanta women have been indicted on charges of stealing Paycheck Protection Program money after officials say they filed false loan applications.

Credit: File photo

Credit: File photo

Two metro Atlanta women are accused of stealing more than $3.5 million by submitting false applications to the Paycheck Protection Program, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Lakisha Swope, 43, of Alpharetta, and Treisha Pearson, 49, of Brookhaven, are each facing charges of conspiracy, wire fraud, bank fraud and money laundering, according to the Northern District of Georgia’s Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt Erskine. Swope and Pearson were both indicted Feb. 24, Erskine said in a news release.

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According to Erskine’s office, the two women created fake PPP loan applications for multiple businesses that totaled more than $5 million. The applications contained false information about the total number of people employed by the businesses and amount of monthly payroll, Erskine said.

Based on the false applications, lenders issued more than $3.5 million in PPP loans to the businesses that were part of the scheme, Erskine said. According to the release, Swope and Pearson used the cash to pay for luxury clothing, restaurants, personal rent, hotels and vacation rentals.

Public records show that Swope is the owner of a business called Luxe Recovery, LLC, which helps clients plan for and recover from outpatient surgeries. The facility’s Facebook page advertises a “spa/resort-like recovery.”

Pearson is listed as an individual healthcare specialist in the national provider database maintained by the U.S. government.

“PPP dollars often provide a bridge for businesses suffering from the effects of the pandemic,” Erskine said. “However, PPP funds are not unlimited, and those who seek to enrich themselves fraudulently through this program will be prosecuted.”

“These two defendants are accused of misdirecting federal emergency assistance from businesses who need it to stay afloat, to their own pockets, during a pandemic,” FBI Atlanta Special Agent Chris Hacker said.

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The indictments of Swope and Pearson could be a harbinger for a wave of fraud cases related to pandemic relief. In a recent interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Erskine said crimes related to PPP funds were on the rise.

“We have seen increasing numbers of criminals trying to capitalize by diverting funds from their intended use,” Erskine told the AJC. “And unfortunately, as you would expect, it only diverts critical funds from the businesses and the employees who desperately need the resources. That is a growing kind of fraud in this district and nationally. So I expect that we’re going to be working on PPP fraud cases and COVID Relief Fund type of cases for years to come.”

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