Memphis Business Fraudulently Got More Than $1 Million in COVID-19 Relief Money, Federal Officials Say


Officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Tennessee on Monday announced that a Memphis-based business fraudulently obtained $1.1 million in COVID-19 economic injury disaster loans.

This, according to a press release that attorneys published on the U.S. Department of Justice’s website.

Officials charged Brandy D. Scaife, 42, Janisha L. Jones, 22, and Sharika L. Carpenter, 42, of Better Days Tax Service with wire fraud and conspiracy to defraud the United States, the press release said.

“According to information presented in the complaint, between April 2020 and June 2020, Scaife, Jones, and Carpenter participated in a fraud scheme to obtain COVID-19 relief funds from the Small Business Administration in excess of $1 million,” according to the press release.

“Further, the scheme resulted in 401 fraudulently filed applications seeking Economic Injury Disaster loans made available to those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Numerous applications were submitted using false information for the purpose of facilitating the fraudulent activity. Evidence revealed approved loan applications netted approximately $1.1 million in fraudulently obtained funds.”

If convicted, each defendant faces up to 30 years in federal prison. There is no parole in the federal system, the press release said.

“Protection of the United States Treasury is a top priority for the Department of Justice, and our office is absolutely committed to bringing to justice those who would seek to take unfair advantage of critical government resources through fraud during this challenging and uncertain time of the COVID-19 pandemic,” United States Attorney D. Michael Dunavant (pictured above) said in a statement. “I commend the outstanding investigation by our federal law enforcement partners in this brazen and disturbing case.”

Federal officials have already sent a generous amount of COVID-19 relief money to Memphis.

As The Tennessee Star reported in June, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN-09) announced the feds would send more than $100,000 of taxpayer money to the University of Memphis to study how COVID-19 affects employee morale.

As reported in April, Cohen announced that as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, the already publicly-funded Memphis Area Transit Authority would receive nearly $36 million in taxpayer money. MATA is Memphis’ public transportation provider. Members of the Federal Transit Administration disbursed that money.

Later that month, Cohen announced that the feds would send the Memphis International Airport nearly $25 million in COVID-19 relief money — even though the facility had struggled for years because far fewer people use it.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]




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