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Woman defrauds government out of nearly $100K in pandemic loan and counterfeit check schemes, recruited patsies on Instagram

Photo By Raymond Boyd/Getty Images

A St. Louis, Missouri, woman recently pleaded guilty to charges stemming from counterfeit checks and fraudulent loan applications to the Payment Protection Program, a government program that attempted to provide payroll money for businesses during lockdowns.

According to the United States Attorney's Office, Nikia French, 30, submitted two separate PPP loan applications in April 2021, in which she lied about her gross income and lied saying she had not been convicted of felony fraud within the last five years. French submitted other false documents as well to acquire approximately $23,000 through the loans.

According to her plea agreement, the woman used the money to buy clothes, go to restaurants, and otherwise withdraw cash.

The Missourian also admitted to recruiting people through the social media application Instagram to let her use their bank accounts. French would create counterfeit checks, put them into the accounts of those she recruited, and monitor the accounts until the money cleared. She would then withdraw the money or make purchases with debit cards before the checks could be identified as counterfeit.

French deposited and attempted to deposit multiple checks between February 2022 and April 2022, totaling at least $73,515, and was able to receive at least $34,109.

An August 2023 court appearance will determine whether or not the 30-year-old is sentenced to a possible 30 years in prison and/or a $1 million fine.

As for her previous conviction of felony fraud that she lied about on her PPP application, the woman was sentenced to a year and a day in prison in 2019 for brank fraud and ordered to repay approximately $62,000.

As well, a Cascade, Montana, woman recently pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud at the federal level with student loans. The woman enrolled her family members and others in online classes without their knowledge and was able to secure federal student aid that totaled over $125,000.

That woman is facing a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release for her conspiracy charge.

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