Four additional defendants in North Carolina plead guilty to national COVID-19 fraud scheme


Date: April 28, 2023


Raleigh, NC — Denise Coit Alston, Monica Faye Barnes, Terron Cortez Parker, and Kami D. Woodard each pleaded guilty earlier this week to conspiracy to commit wire fraud for fraudulently obtaining Paycheck Protection Act ("PPP") COVID-19 loans. The defendants requested relief for various companies they owned including companies listed as being engaged in catering, trucking and real estate. They all face up to 20 years in prison.

"These defendants, along with the broader network of co-conspirators, took taxpayer money meant to help struggling small businesses during a global pandemic," said U.S. Attorney Michael Easley. "We are investigating and prosecuting those who steal from public programs intended to keep legitimate businesses afloat."

According to the filed charges and information summarized in court, the defendants conspired with Edward Whitaker, Schunda Coleman, and others to obtain fraudulent PPP loans on behalf of their businesses. Whitaker and Coleman pled guilty on January 19, 2023 for their role in operating a nation-wide scheme to help people across the country commit millions of dollars of PPP fraud from their home in Texas.

Whitaker and Coleman created fraudulent supporting documents and applications for each PPP loan in exchange for 25% of the total loan proceeds. The fraudulent applications falsified the number of employees and gross wages being paid prior to the COVID-19 pandemic by backdating fraudulent IRS Forms 940 and 941, in order to help qualify for the PPP loans. Following the disbursement of the PPP loans, Whitaker gave each defendant, via text messages subsequently obtained by law enforcement, detailed instructions as to how to make it appear that the PPP loans were being paid out to employees. In reality, most or all of the money was transferred back to the defendants. The fraudulent payroll records were then submitted to the Small Business Administration (SBA) to obtain 100% loan forgiveness.

Late last year, Quentin Jackson pled guilty in the same conspiracy which included the recruitment of numerous individuals within the Eastern District of North Carolina to use Whitaker and Coleman to obtain fraudulent PPP funds.

"The Paycheck Protection Program was designed to help small businesses facing financial difficulties during the COVID-19 pandemic," said Donald "Trey" Eakins, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge in the Charlotte Field Office. "Through our partnership with the U.S. Attorney's Office and our federal law enforcement partners, IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agents will continue to aggressively pursue individuals who try to exploit federal relief programs for their personal gain."

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who were economically suffering from the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act and additional appropriations authorized up to $649 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Financial institutions issued the PPP loans, which were guaranteed by the SBA.

Michael Easley, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, made the announcement after United States Magistrate Judge Robert T. Numbers II accepted the pleas. Sentencings will occur before United States District Judge James C. Dever III later this year. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation is leading the investigation, and Assistant U.S. Attorney David G. Beraka is prosecuting the case.