New Orleans woman pleads guilty to cares act fraud, false statements to the IRS, and theft of government funds


Date: May 28, 2024


NEW ORLEANS — U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans announced that Tamika Chappell of New Orleans, LA, pleaded guilty on May 23, 2024, before U.S. District Court Judge Carl J. Barbier to three-counts, including making false statements related to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), making false statements to the IRS, and theft of government funds.

The CARES Act is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020, to provide emergency financial assistance in connection with economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. One source of relief provided by the CARES Act was the authorization of up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses, through the PPP. In April 2020, Congress authorized over $300 billion in additional PPP funding.

The PPP allows qualifying small businesses and other organizations to receive loans with a maturity of two years and an interest rate of 1%. PPP loan proceeds must be used by businesses on payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities. The PPP allows the interest and principal on the PPP loan to be forgiven if the business spends the loan proceeds on these expense items within a designated period of time after receiving the proceeds and uses at least a certain percentage of the PPP loan proceeds on payroll expenses.

In Count 1, Chappell was charged with making false statements to the SBA for the purpose of fraudulently obtaining pandemic-related relief loans funded by the federal government, including PPP funds, which she received in the amount of approximately $105,625.00. In Count 2, Chappell was charged with stealing at least $1,000.00 from the Social Security Administration by receiving disability benefits to which when was not entitled from 2019 to 2022. In Count 3, Chappell was charged with making false statements to the IRS by failing to report the correct amount of taxable income for the year 2020.

Sentencing is scheduled for August 29, 2024. Chappell faces up to five years in prison, up to $250,000 in fines, and up to three years of supervised release for the false statements count. For the theft of government funds, she faces up to 10 years imprisonment, up to $250,000 in fines, and up to three years supervised release. For the false statement and theft from the IRS, she faces up to three years in prison, up to $250,000 in fines, and up to three years of supervised release. There is also a $100 mandatory special assessment fee per count.

This case was investigated by an agent assigned to the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) Fraud Task Force. The PRAC was established to serve the American public by promoting transparency and facilitating coordinated oversight of the federal government’s COVID-19 pandemic response. The PRAC’s 21 member Inspectors General identify major risks that cross program and agency boundaries to detect fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in the more than $5 trillion in COVID-19 spending. The PRAC Fraud Task Force brings together agents from 15 Inspectors General to investigate fraud involving a variety of programs, including the Paycheck Protection Program. Task force agents who are detailed to the PRAC receive expanded authority to investigate pandemic fraud as well as tools and training to support their investigations.

U.S. Attorney Evans praised the work of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (CI), PRAC member U.A. Department of Veterans Affairs - Office of Inspector General, and the Social Security Administration in investigating this matter. Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward J. Rivera of the Financial Crimes Unit is in charge of the prosecution.

CI is the criminal investigative arm of the IRS, responsible for conducting financial crime investigations, including tax fraud, narcotics trafficking, money-laundering, public corruption, healthcare fraud, identity theft and more. CI special agents are the only federal law enforcement agents with investigative jurisdiction over violations of the Internal Revenue Code, obtaining a more than a 90 percent federal conviction rate. The agency has 20 field offices located across the U.S. and 12 attaché posts abroad.