Houston woman committed fraud to get nearly $30K in PPP loans, pleads guilty

A Houston woman pleaded guilty and faces up to five years in prison after making false statements in relation to the CARES Act.

Bria Peters, 38, formerly from New Orleans but now living in Houston, pleaded guilty on Oct. 18, to a one-count bill of information for making false statements related to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), announced U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans.

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On March 27, 2020, The CARES Act established several new temporary programs to address the COVID-19 pandemic. Among them was the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) which authorized forgivable loans backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to small businesses to retain workers and maintain payroll, make mortgage interest payments, lease payments, and utility payments.

The PPP allows the interest and principal on the PPP loan to be forgiven if the business spends the loan proceeds on these expense items within a designated period of time after receiving the proceeds and uses at least a certain percentage of the PPP loan proceeds on payroll expenses.

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The U.S. Attorney's Office says Peters made false statements to a lender in May 2021, to knowingly obtain a PPP loan fraudulently. She later received the loan totaling about $29,166. Court documents say Peters stated in her PPP application that in 2020, she owned a clothing business impacted by the pandemic when, in reality, she had no such business.

Peters is to be sentenced on Jan. 17, 2024, and faces up to five years in prison, up to $250,000 in fines, and up to three years of supervised release for the false statements count. There is also a $100 mandatory special assessment fee due after conviction.