Former president of beauty career training school sentenced to federal prison


Date: July 7, 2023


United States Attorney Brandon B. Brown announced that Janola Massaquoi, of Shreveport, Louisiana was sentenced late yesterday by United States District Judge S. Maurice Hicks, Jr. for making false statements to a federal agency in connection with the application for a CARES Act loan. Massaquoi was sentenced to 12 months and 1 day in prison and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $250,000. She will serve 3 years of supervised release following her release from prison.

In March 2020 Congress enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act which was designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who were suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the CARES Act, the Small Business Administration (SBA) provided Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), which were low-interest financing to small businesses, renters and homeowners in regions affected by declared disasters. The CARES Act also provided authorization of up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses, through a program referred to as the Paycheck Protection Program ("PPP").

In 2018, Massaquoi formed the Jane Elizabeth Education Group (JEEG) and also served as the president of a beauty career training company. In 2020, she applied to the SBA for an EIDL in the name of JEEG d/b/a Company 1 seeking approximately $500,000 in EIDL Program funds. At the same time, she applied for a PPP loan in the name of JEEG d/b/a Company 1 seeking $178,750. As part of the EIDL application process, in April 2020, Massaquoi electronically submitted to the SBA a Loan Authorization and Agreement in which she certified to the SBA that "[JEEG] will not, without the prior written consent of SBA, make any distribution of Borrower's assets, or give any preferential treatment, make any advance, directly or indirectly, by way of loan, gift, bonus, or otherwise to any owner or partner…" She also certified that the loan funds would be used solely as working capital for JEEG.

Both loan applications were subsequently approved. Based on her material misrepresentations set forth in the false Loan Authorization and Agreement, the SBA disbursed approximately $500,000 in EIDL benefits to a bank account held by Company 1. On April 23, 2020, approximately $178,750 in PPP loan benefits were disbursed to a bank account held by Company 1.

In reality and unbeknownst to the SBA, Massaquoi intended to make a large advance directly to herself and did not intend to use the EIDL funds solely as working capital for JEEG. After obtaining the loan benefits, Massaquoi transferred funds from Company 1's bank account to other bank accounts she personally controlled and used the funds for a variety of personal expenses including a down payment on the purchase of a personal residence and mortgage payments. Massaquoi also withdrew over $30,000 in cash, transferred over $50,000 to friends and family members, and used approximately $83,000 to fund her personal investment and retirement accounts. In total, Massaquoi used $250,000 of the EIDL proceeds for her personal use.

"Because of the selfish actions of this defendant and her choice to defraud the government out of over $250,000 for her own personal gain, she now rightfully stands as a convicted felon and will spend time behind bars," said U.S. Attorney Brandon B. Brown. "These types of cases are part of why we have been called to do what we do at the United States Attorney's Office. It is our sole responsibility to investigate and prosecute these types of cases. The CARES Act was designed to help those with businesses that were suffering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, not to line their own personal pockets to the detriment of the American taxpayer. We will bring those who steal federal taxpayer dollars to justice as these types of cases remain a priority for our office and the department. Our office will continue to aggressively prosecute these offenders in Shreveport, Monroe, Alexandria, Lafayette, Lake Charles and all points in between."

"Massaquoi represents a growing number of people who fraudulently received funds under the CARES Act and utilized them for personal gain," said Demetrius Hardeman, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Atlanta Field Office. "However, IRS Criminal Investigation and our federal law enforcement partners uncovered her deceitfulness and her sentencing is evidence that greed does not pay."

The case was investigated by Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation and the Department of Treasury, Inspector General for Tax Administration and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth D. Reeg.

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 agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information, please visit the Department of Justice's coronavirus response page.

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.