DUBLIN, GA - A Georgia woman was sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to repay more than half a million dollars she fraudulently obtained from COVID-19 small business relief programs.
Gladys Harun, 44, of Byron, Ga., was sentenced to 60 months in prison after pleading guilty to lying to a Federal investigator, said Jill E. Steinberg, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. U.S. District Court Judge Dudley H. Bowen also ordered Harun to pay $552,679 in restitution, and to serve three years of supervised release upon completion of her prison term. There is no parole in the Federal system.
“Harun used her knowledge as a tax preparer to fraudulently obtain hundreds of thousands of dollars in funds intended for small businesses struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic,” U.S. Attorney Steinberg said. “Such greed-fueled theft from government programs hurts businesses legitimately in need of vital relief efforts.”
As described in court documents and proceedings, Harun was a franchisee of a tax preparation service with multiple locations in Georgia. She admitted to lying to investigators from the Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General about applications she filed for herself and on behalf of others, including her customers, to obtain more than $550,000 from a California lender through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act’s Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans.
“Schemers who stole taxpayer dollars from SBA ‘s Paycheck Protection Program will be brought to justice,” SBA-OIG’s Eastern Region Special Agent in Charge Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite said. “This sentence demonstrates that those responsible will be held accountable. I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s office and our law enforcement partners for their support and dedication to pursuing justice in this case.”
“This successful effort with our partner agencies is just one example of the Secret Service commitment to aggressively investigate fraud, especially cases that involve government programs designed to help businesses,” Resident Agent in Charge J. Craig Reno of the U.S. Secret Service Savannah Resident Office said. “The United States Secret Service, along with our state, local, and Federal law enforcement partners, will continue to investigate, arrest, and support the successful prosecution of the criminals who choose to commit fraud in Georgia and across the nation.”
“Harun’s sentencing shows after the expiration of the PPP and EIDL programs more than two years ago, those who fraudulently obtained funds are still being held accountable,” Maisha Horton, Acting Assistant Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Atlanta Field Office, said. “There are individuals who believe they’ve gotten away with stealing taxpayers funds through those programs; however, IRS Criminal Investigation and our law enforcement partners vigorously continue investigating suspects and forwarding our findings to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for adjudication.”
The case was investigated by the Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Secret Service, and IRS Criminal Investigation, and prosecuted for the United States by Southern District of Georgia Assistant U.S. Attorney L. Alexander Hamner.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
Barry Paschal, Public Affairs Officer: 912-652-4422