A US woman fraudulently collected more than $2 million in COVID-19 relief funds

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A 22-year old Texas woman has been arrested for her alleged involvement in fraud that led her to procure more than $1.9 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. US authorities have charged Lola Shalewa Barbara Kasali on multiple accounts including wire fraud, bank fraud and conducting unlawful transactions.

The US federal government implemented the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act on March 29, 2020 to provide emergency financial assistance to those Americans worst hit by economic aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. A provision under the CARES Act guarantees forgivable loans to small businesses for payroll and related expenses through the PPP. However, funds from PPP loans can only be used for payroll costs, rent, mortgage payments and utilities. Under special circumstances, the PPP even allows the interest and principal to be forgiven.

In this case, Kasali submitted at least two fraudulent PPP loan applications on behalf of two different entities. One of her applications was approved, giving her more than $1.9 million in PPP loan funds. Authorities have now seized the loan amount which Kasali had transferred into four other bank accounts. Kasali’s loan applications purported that her entities had many employees on payroll. However, authorities discovered that the two entities neither have any employees nor any wage payment requirements as was claimed in loan applications.