Phoenix Woman Sentenced to Jail for Paycheck Protection Fraud | USAO-AZ

PHOENIX, Arizona – Celestine Coletta Strong, 46, of Phoenix, Arizona, was sentenced on October 31, 2022 by United States District Court Judge Susan M. Brnovich to five years in prison. The court also ordered Strong to pay $327,448 in restitution and return his 2016 Mercedes-Benz E400 and 2018 Dodge Challenger. Strong previously pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud .

Strong loans obtained fraudulently through the CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program, a program designed to help small businesses meet their payroll obligations during the COVID-19 pandemic. Strong conspired to submit loan applications with falsified employee and salary information, fake bank statements and other false information in an effort to secure 17 different loans totaling over $3.5 million in proceeds loan. She fraudulently obtained approximately $400,000 and used the proceeds to buy, among other things, luxury cars.

On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to mobilize Department of Justice resources in partnership with government agencies to scale up enforcement and prevention efforts. pandemic-related fraud. The task force strengthens efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies administering relief programs to prevent fraud, among other methods, by increasing and integrating coordination mechanisms existing ones, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their agendas, and sharing and leveraging information and knowledge gained from previous enforcement efforts.

Homeland Security Investigations conducted the investigation in this case, with assistance from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and the Inspector General’s Office of Small Business Administration. Assistant United States Attorney Kevin M. Rapp of the District of Arizona in Phoenix is ​​handling the prosecution.

VERSION NUMBER: 2022-203_Strong

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