Spokane, Washington – Vanessa R. Waldref, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced today that Roshon Edward Thomas, 52, of Spokane, Washington, has pleaded guilty to fraudulently obtaining more than $50,000 in COVID-19 relief funds. This case is part of the COVID-19 Relief Fraud Strike Force launched by the U.S. Attorney’s Office earlier this year. Senior Judge Rosanna Malouf Peterson accepted Thomas’ guilty plea and set sentencing for August 16, 2022, in Spokane.
On March 27, 2020, the President signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act. The CARES Act provided a number of programs through which eligible small businesses could request and obtain relief funding intended to mitigate the economic impacts of the pandemic for small and local businesses. One such program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, provided low interest loans that could be deferred until the conclusion of the pandemic to provide “bridge” funding for small businesses to maintain their operations during shutdowns and other economic circumstances caused by the pandemic.
“COVID-19 relief programs were designed to lift up our community during crisis, and due to the number of people and businesses that requested funding, some deserving small businesses were not able to obtain funding to keep their businesses in operation,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref. “We created the COVID-19 Fraud Strike Force because combatting pandemic-related fraud and holding those accountable who abused these programs is critical to the strength and safety of our community in Eastern Washington. The Strike Force works to ensure that limited resources are used to protect our local small businesses and the critical jobs and services that they provide for the community.”
In February 2022, U.S. Attorney Waldref and the U.S. Attorney’s Office began working with federal law enforcement agencies to create and launch a COVID-19 Fraud Strike Force that would leverage partnerships between different agencies to aggressively investigate and prosecute fraud against COVID-19 relief programs in Eastern Washington. The Strike Force consists of agency representatives from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Inspector General (OIG), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Department of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs OIG, General Services Administration OIG, Internal Revenue Service, Department of Energy OIG, Department of Homeland Security OIG, and others. Cases investigated and prosecuted by the Strike Force have resulted in numerous indictments, criminal prosecutions, and civil penalties.
According to court documents and information disclosed during court proceedings, Thomas fraudulently obtained at least $54,900 in COVID-19 relief funding through two EIDL loans he obtained in July and August 2020 for a purported tattoo parlor and a clothing design company. Thomas pled guilty to submitting false and fraudulent claims to the United States, and admitted to using false and fraudulent information to obtain EIDL funding for both companies. The charge carries a maximum sentence of up to five years in prison.
“I commend the stellar investigative work on these cases performed by the Strike Force and especially in this case by SBA OIG, TIGTA, FBI, and HSI,” said U.S. Attorney Waldref. “We will continue to work together with our law enforcement partners to vigorously prosecute those who abuse and misuse COVID-19 relief funding, and to strengthen our communities by protecting our small and local businesses.”
Assistant United States Attorneys Dan Fruchter and Tyler H.L. Tornabene are prosecuting this case on behalf of the United States.