Three Washingtonians convicted for COVID-19 relief fraud

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EASTERN WASHINGTON — Three Washingtonians were convicted for getting COVID-19 relief funds and using them for other means.

According to court documents, Jimia Rae Cain from West Richland, got $337,267 in COVID-19 funding used for her business. Documents showed that her business, Americore Construction, was not a legitimate business, as there were no employees or payroll during the relevant time period. Cain submitted fake tax, payroll and other documentation to get the funds. She has two prior fraud convictions and will be sentenced on June 1, 2023 in Richland.

According to other court documents, Stephen and Stephanie Murphy from Davenport submitted three fake PPP applications for their business, getting $60,000 in COVID-19 relief funding. The sent fake tax documentation and information three separate times, including that the business had an annual income of more than $100,000 before the pandemic. They will be sentenced on February 22, 2023 in Spokane.

“I commend the stellar investigative work on these cases performed by the Strike Force and especially in this case by SBA OIG, TIGTA, and DHS OIG,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to strengthen our communities by protecting our small and local businesses.”

Their charges carry a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.

The President signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act in March of 2020, which eligible small business could get COVID-19 relief funding to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic on local businesses.

“COVID-19 relief programs quickly ran out of money due to the number of businesses that requested funding, meaning that struggling, deserving small businesses were not able to obtain critically needed funding to keep their businesses afloat during the shutdowns and disruptions caused by the COVID pandemic,” Waldref said. “We created the Eastern Washington COVID-19 Fraud Strike Force because it is critical to the strength and safety of our communities that we all work together to combat pandemic-related fraud and bring much-needed accountability to these programs. The Strike Force works to ensure that limited resources are used to protect our local small businesses and the critical jobs and services that they provide for the community.”

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