Feds: Jailer at Atlanta’s U.S. Penitentiary charged with PPP fraud

A corrections officer at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta has been indicted on wire fraud charges after federal officials accused her of taking out fraudulent loans from the Paycheck Protection Program.

Harrescia Hopkins, 33, of Stone Mountain, was indicted Tuesday by a federal grand jury based on evidence that she applied for two PPP loans for a company that was completely fake, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia Ryan K. Buchanan said in a news release.

According to Buchanan, Hopkins applied for two separate PPP loans totaling nearly $40,000 for a business called Hopkins Towing & Storage that did not exist. Hopkins claimed the business had a gross income of more than $100,000 in 2019, Buchanan said, but the money from the loans was deposited directly into her personal checking account.

Hopkins applied for the loans while she was an employee of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, but the alleged fraud was not related to her job there. Officials at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta have not responded to questions about Hopkins’ employment.

“Hopkins was employed in a position of trust to help safeguard our community,” Buchanan said. “But during a time of extreme economic need in our nation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she chose to defraud taxpayers and improperly take funds intended to help struggling businesses survive.”

PPP loans were created to allow small business owners to continue paying their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic with money allocated by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which went into law in March 2020.

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 filling out the NCDF Web Complaint Form online.