A 24-year-old Charlotte womanaccused of filing a fake application for a $150,000 coronavirus relief loan spent the money shopping at more than two dozen stores that ran the gamut from Walmart to Louis Vuitton, according to federal prosecutors.
Jasmine Johnnae Clifton made her first appearance in front of a federal judge Monday after a grand jury indicted her on fraud charges last week, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina said in a news release. Clifton was subsequently released on a $25,000 bond, court documents show.
A public defender appointed to represent Clifton declined to comment on pending litigation in an email to McClatchy News on Tuesday.
The alleged fraud stems from Clifton’s online retail business. Clifton filed articles of incorporation for a businesses called Jazzy Jas that sold clothes online in February 2019 and registered it to her home address, prosecutors said in a bill of indictment.
Jazzy Jas reportedly lasted eight months, and the paperwork to dissolve the company was filed in early 2020 with a retroactive effective date in September 2019, court documents show.
But a few months after the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020, prosecutors said Clifton used the defunct business to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan through the Small Business Administration. The EIDL program provides low-interest financing in areas struck by disaster and was expanded under the CARES Act. The expansion allowed the loans to be used as working capital to offset financial fallout from the pandemic, prosecutors said.
Clifton reportedly applied for a loan in July. In her application, court documents state she claimed Jazzy Jas had earned $350,000 in gross revenue over the previous 12 months.
The application was approved in early August, and $149,900 was deposited in Clifton’s personal bank account a few days later, according to the indictment.
In the months that followed, prosecutors said Clifton spent the money at a string of retailers buying a variety of items, from mattresses and shoes to car parts, diamonds and designer bags. The stores she shopped at included:
Nike, Dillards, Nordstrom, Ikea, Best Buy, Mattress Firm, Rooms To Go, Lowes, Kirklands, Ross, Foot Locker, Target, Walmart, Guitar Center, LS Biggs Camera, Best Buy, Amazon, Lyft, Saks New York, Nieman Marcus, Diamond Castle New York, American Airlines, HomeGoods, Diamonds by David, Progressive Insurance, Embassy Suites, Dirty South Customs, Liberty Buick GMC and Louis Vuitton.
A grand jury indicted Clifton on charges of wire fraud in relation to a disaster benefit and fraud in connection with major disaster or emergency benefits on Feb. 17.
If convicted, prosecutors said she faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine on the wire fraud charges and 30 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the fraud charges.