Five current or former IRS employees have been charged with schemes to defraud the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program, federal stimulus programs authorized as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
“The IRS employees charged in these cases allegedly abused the trust placed in them by the public,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The Criminal Division is committed to safeguarding that public trust and protecting pandemic relief programs for the American people.”
“This matter demonstrates the brazenness with which bad actors have taken advantage of federal programs meant to help those who suffered most from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Director for COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Kevin Chambers. “The Justice Department will continue to work hard to root out PPP and EIDL Program fraud, including that committed by government employees.”
According to court documents, the defendants allegedly obtained funds under the PPP and EIDL Program by submitting false and fraudulent loan applications that collectively sought over $1 million. They then used the loan funds for purposes not authorized by the PPP or EIDL Program, but instead for cars, luxury goods, and personal travel, including trips to Las Vegas.
“These individuals – acting out of pure greed – abused their positions by taking government funds meant for citizens and businesses who desperately needed it,” said U.S. Attorney Kevin G. Ritz for the Western District of Tennessee. “I thank our law enforcement partners for rooting out this fraud. Our office will not hesitate to pursue and charge individuals who steal from our nation’s taxpayers.”
“The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s (TIGTA) mission includes investigating allegations of criminal violations committed by Internal Revenue Service employees,” said Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George. “We will continue to aggressively pursue IRS employees who breach the public trust, safeguarding the integrity of the IRS.”
“It is especially egregious when individuals that hold positions of public trust engage in criminal activity,” said Inspector General Hannibal “Mike” Ware of the Small Business Administration, Office of Inspector General (SBA-OIG). “OIG is a ready partner in safeguarding the integrity of SBA’s programs and in bringing wrongdoers to justice.”
The five individuals charged are:
- Brian Saulsberry, 46, of Memphis, Tennessee, is charged with two counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering. Saulsberry was employed by the IRS as a Program Evaluation and Risk Analyst in the Human Capital Office. According to the indictment, Saulsberry submitted four fraudulent EIDL Program applications, seeking at least $501,400 in EIDL Program loans and obtaining $171,400 in loan funds. Saulsberry allegedly spent a portion of the funds on a Mercedes-Benz and deposited additional funds into a personal investment account.
- Courtney Quinshe Westmoreland, 38, of Cordova, Tennessee, is charged with three counts of wire fraud. Westmoreland was employed by the IRS as a Contact Representative in the Wage and Investment Service Centers Department. According to the indictment, Westmoreland submitted multiple fraudulent PPP and EIDL Program applications on behalf of a purported apparel business, for which she sought at least $32,500 in loans and obtained $11,500 in loan funds. Westmoreland allegedly used these funds for personal services, including manicures and massages, and to purchase luxury clothing. In addition, while employed full-time by the IRS, Westmoreland allegedly submitted fraudulent applications for unemployment insurance benefits to the Tennessee Department of Labor, in which she falsely claimed that she was not employed by the federal government. According to court documents, Westmoreland fraudulently obtained $16,050 in unemployment insurance benefits.
- Fatina Hewitt, 35, of Olive Branch, Mississippi, is charged with one count of wire fraud. Hewitt was employed by the IRS as a Management and Program Assistant in Information Technology. According to the information, Hewitt submitted multiple fraudulent EIDL Program applications on behalf of a purported fashion business, seeking $338,900 in EIDL Program loans and obtaining $28,900 in loan funds. Court documents allege that Hewitt spent the loan funds on Gucci clothing and a trip to Las Vegas. On October 4, 2022, Hewitt pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.
- Roderick DeMarco White II, 27, of Memphis, is charged with one count of wire fraud. White was employed by the IRS as a Contact Representative in the Wage and Investment Service Centers Department. According to the information, White submitted four fraudulent PPP and EIDL Program applications on behalf of a purported apparel business, seeking $113,311 in PPP and EIDL Program loans and obtaining $66,666 in loan funds. White allegedly spent the loan funds on personal items, including a Gucci satchel. On August 25, 2022, White pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.
- Tina Humes, 56, of Memphis, is charged with one count of wire fraud. Humes was employed by the IRS as a Lead Management and Program Assistant in the Human Capital Office. According to the information, Humes submitted four fraudulent PPP and EIDL Program applications, seeking $133,812 in loans and obtaining $123,612 in loan funds. Humes allegedly spent the funds on jewelry and trips to Las Vegas. On July 27, 2022, Humes pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.
Each count of wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, and each count of money laundering carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The TIGTA and SBA-OIG investigated the cases.
Assistant Chief Justin Woodard and Trial Attorneys Sara Porter, Kelly Z. Walters, and Thomas D. Campbell of the Fraud Section’s Gulf Coast Strike Force and Assistant U.S. Attorney Carroll Andre for the Western District of Tennessee are prosecuting the cases.
These cases were brought as part of an interagency effort to combat and prevent CARES Act fraud by federal employees. The initiative is led by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, Fraud Section, U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, and agents with TIGTA and SBA-OIG.
The Fraud Section leads the Criminal Division’s prosecution of fraud schemes that exploit the PPP. Since the inception of the CARES Act, the Fraud Section has prosecuted over 150 defendants in more than 95 criminal cases and has seized over $75 million in cash proceeds derived from fraudulently obtained PPP funds, as well as numerous real estate properties and luxury items purchased with such proceeds. More information can be found at https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/ppp-fraud.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
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 via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.