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Mississippi postal worker sentenced for COVID-19 loan fraud

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Photo courtesy of the FBI

A Southaven woman was ordered to repay more than $80,000 in restitution on Tuesday after being convicted of fraudulently drawing COVID-19 Payroll Protection Loans.

LaSonja Jones, 42, pleaded guilty to applying for PPP COVID-19 loans with false information about two personal businesses she owned to get federal funds from the pandemic business relief fund. She was an employee of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at the time of the fraud.

U.S. District Court Judge Sharion Aycock sentenced Jones to five years of supervised release and ordered her to pay the $80,433 in restitution.

“The federal government made billions of dollars available to businesses that needed help to stay afloat during the pandemic, and people like this defendant stole that money,” U.S. Attorney Clay Joyner said after the sentence was handed down. “To add insult to injury, the defendant worked for the government at the same time that she was actively stealing from the government, and I appreciate the efforts of the Postal Service to bring her to justice.”

“This case is an example of our unwillingness to tolerate payroll protection fraud, especially by individuals who are placed in positions of authority to protect and investigate this very fraud,” U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector Special Agent Michael Ray said.

But there’s still plenty of work to do for officials to bring this type of fraudster to justice. According to the FBI, more than $300 billion is estimated to have been stolen from the $5 trillion in federal pandemic relief programs. Approximately $64 billion was stolen from the PPP, $136 billion from the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL), and more than $100 billion from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) fund, per the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

“Ultimately, these losses will be paid by the American taxpayers,” FBI Special Agent David Nanz said in a statement earlier this year. “And, worse, because most of the money was borrowed by the U.S. Government, our children and even grandchildren will be on the hook.”

The combined losses make the fraud the largest in history.

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