Coronavirus: SC woman sentenced to 2 years for misusing $1.2M in COVID-19 funds

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A South Carolina woman has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for fraud relating to $1.2 million in coronavirus relief funds.

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Bridgett Dorsey, 39, of Blythewood, pleaded guilty on Thursday to fraudulently obtaining the money through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and committing tax fraud, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina.

The sentence is the first handed down in the District of South Carolina for a case involving CARES Act fraud, the attorney’s office said in its release.

“The defendant in this case not only stole from the federal government and engaged in tax fraud, but she prevented funds from reaching the hands of those who needed it the most. That this occurred during a pandemic makes her crimes particularly egregious,” U.S. Attorney Corey F. Ellis said in a statement. “This case highlights the Department of Justice’s commitment to prosecuting those who illegally take advantage of COVID-19 to line their own pockets. Fortunately, the quick and capable work of our federal partners permitted the recovery of a substantial amount of stolen funds.”

According to court records, Dorsey fraudulently applied for and received $1,253,460.35 through seven Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and two Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans between April 2020 and August 2020, WIS-TV reported.

Each of the applications submitted by Dorsey contained materially false information, prosecutors said. That included overstating the businesses’ revenues, inflating the number of employees, or providing addresses where businesses did not exist. In some cases, Dorsey created and submitted false documentation or created businesses in order to obtain the loans, the news release stated.

Agents with the Internal Revenue Service and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration also discovered that Dorsey had been preparing fraudulent tax returns, prosecutors said.

“It is always a shame to see the rampant abuse of programs designed to help ordinary people struggling through the pandemic,” Brian Thomas, the IRS assistant special agent in charge out of the Charlotte field office, said in a statement. “The IRS will continue to thoroughly investigate and vigorously target those who exploit the pandemic to commit tax fraud, and this case speaks to those efforts.”

After serving her sentence, Dorsey will have a three-year term of court-ordered supervision, WIS reported. She will also have to pay more than $1 million in restitution for her CARES Act-related fraud and $13,865 in restitution to the IRS due to her tax fraud, the television station reported.

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