North Carolina woman accused of using $150K in virus funds for shopping
Jasmine Johnnae Clifton has been charged with using COVID relief funds at stores such as Louis Vuitton
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has had an adverse financial impact on millions across the country, but authorities say one North Carolina woman lied to obtain a COVID-19 relief loan. She then spent the money on frivolities such as shopping excursions to Nieman Marcus and other luxury retailers.
According to ABC, this week the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina released a statement to the press confirming that on Monday Jasmine Johnnae Clifton, 24, appeared in court. She was later released on $25,000 bond due to allegations that she spent government obtained funds at Louis Vuitton and diamond stores.
Federal prosecutors went on to outline how the 24-year-old created false documents claiming $350,000 in gross revenue in 12 months for her online clothing business, Jazzy Jas. Clifton then used those documents to apply for a Small Business Administration loan meant to provide relief to existing businesses experiencing hardship due to pandemic shutdowns.
Although paperwork filed in early 2020 showed the company was dissolved in September 2019 – six months before the World Health Organization announced COVID-19 was officially categorized as a global pandemic – Clifton allegedly pretended her business was still up and running in March. It allowed her to receive almost $150,000 in assistance which she then reportedly spent at over two dozen retailers.
“On July 24, 2020, Clifton submitted a fraudulent loan application to the SBA for Jazzy Jas, despite the fact the company had been dissolved by Clifton several months prior,” DOJ said on its website. “As a result of the fraudulent application, which included false information about revenues and a fraudulent tax document, Clifton obtained $149,900 in disaster relief funds that were intended to be provided to an existing business harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Last August, Clifton received her payout directly to her business account via direct deposit but claims the DOJ tracked her purchases to popular stores such as Nordstrom, Ikea, Neiman Marcus, Rooms To Go, Louis Vuitton, Best Buy, and several jewelry stores. On Feb. 17, a grand jury indicted the entrepreneur on wire fraud charges for benefiting from funds connected to a major disaster or emergency benefits.
If convicted, she faces 30 years for each charge and a possible combined fine of $1,250,000.
Despite the claims, Clifton has been released on bond and the DOJ notes, “The charges in the indictment are allegations. The defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law.”
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