Chicago woman sentenced to prison for participating in $16 million COVID relief fraud


Date: May 1, 2024


A Chicago woman has been sentenced to a year and a half in federal prison for participating in an organized scheme to fraudulently obtain more than $16 million in small business loans and grants under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Milica Sumakovic was among seven defendants indicted in U.S. District Court in Chicago for participating in a scheme that submitted more than 300 fraudulent applications seeking more than $40 million in benefits from the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL). As a source of relief under the CARES Act, the EIDL program was intended to provide loan assistance or grants to cover working capital and other operating expenses for legitimate businesses that suffered revenue losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sumakovic and her co-defendants claimed in their applications that they owned and operated various businesses in Illinois and Florida. The applications and supporting documents contained materially false representations about the defendants’ purported companies, including the number of employees and revenue amounts. The defendants’ scheme caused the U.S. Small Business Administration to pay out more than $16 million in fraudulent benefits. Sumakovic personally submitted and assisted co-defendant Marko Nikolic in submitting eighteen of the fraudulent applications that sought more than $2.6 million in benefits.

Sumakovic, of Chicago, pleaded guilty last year to a federal wire fraud charge. U.S. District Judge Nancy L. Maldonado on April 25, 2024, sentenced Sumakovic to 18 months in federal prison and ordered her to pay $1.68 million in restitution to the SBA.

Marko Nikolic, of La Grange, Ill., and Branko Aleksic, of Chicago, each pleaded guilty last year to wire fraud and money laundering charges. Marko Nikolic was sentenced in January 2024 to four years and two months in prison and ordered to pay $6.9 million in restitution, while Aleksic was sentenced in November 2023 to two years and eleven months in prison and ordered to pay $575,000 in restitution.

The four other defendants – Maja Nikolic, of Brookfield, Ill., Nebojsa Simeunovic, of Lyons, Ill., Mijajlo Stanisic, of Willowbrook, Ill., and Dorde Todorovic, of Chicago – are considered fugitives and may currently be residing overseas. Warrants for their arrests have been issued.

The sentences were announced by Morris Pasqual, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Sean Fitzgerald, Justin Campbell, Special Agent-in-Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation Chicago Field Office, Special Agent-in-Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Chicago, Heather M. Hill, Acting Inspector General of the Treasury Department Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), and Hannibal Ware, Inspector General of the U.S. Small Business Administration. The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Kavitha J. Babu and Brian Hayes.

“The relief programs provided by the CARES Act were designed to assist small businesses struggling to survive the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Pasqual. “Our office is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to root out abuse of these important programs and hold accountable anyone who seeks to fraudulently profit from them.”

“The sentence imposed on Sumakovic underscores the federal government's dedication to holding accountable individuals who defrauded vital programs that served as a lifeline for businesses during the pandemic,” said IRS-CI SAC Campbell. “Make no mistake: CI and its fellow law enforcement partners remain steadfast in their commitment to holding accountable the fraudsters who exploited COVID relief programs for personal gain.”

“This sentence is a great example of what can be accomplished when federal and local law enforcement agencies work in collaboration,” said HSI SAC Fitzgerald. “We will continue to work tirelessly to investigate criminals who seek to exploit the United States government and bring them to justice.”

Last month, the Justice Department’s COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force released its 2024 report detailing the efforts of the task force and its member agencies in response to widespread fraud involving many COVID-19 programs targeted by fraudsters and other criminals who sought to exploit the government’s relief efforts for their personal gain. Anyone with information about attempted fraud involving COVID-19 is encouraged to report it to the Department of Justice by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or filing an online complaint.