A 24-year-old Charlotte woman is accused of filing a fake application for a Coronavirus relief loan and spending over $150K at over thirty businesses, according to federal prosecutors.
Jasmine Johnnae Clifton made her initial 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 press release.
Clifton filed articles of incorporation for an online clothing outlet called “Jazzy Jas” in February 2019, and registered the business to her home address, prosecutors said in a bill of indictment.
The company owned by Clifton reportedly lasted eight months until Sept. 2019, and the paperwork to dissolve the company was filed in early 2020.
Despite closing the business, a few months after the COVID-19 pandemic hit, 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 of last year. In her application, she claimed “Jazzy Jas” was profitable with $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.
Clifton generated an economic boom by treating herself to a shopping spree. She reportedly bought a variety of items from diamond jewelry to home furniture to airline tickets. According to court documents, the businesses Clifton 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.
Clifton was subsequently released on a $25,000 bond, court documents show.
A grand jury indicted Clifton on charges of wire fraud in connection with major disaster or emergency benefits on Feb. 17. She could face up to 60 years in prison and get hit with a $1.25 million fine.