North Carolina Woman Allegedly Used $149K COVID-19 Business Relief Loan to Go Shopping

·2 min read

United States District Courts The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of North Carolina in Charlotte

A North Carolina woman allegedly used a $149,000 COVID-19 business relief loan to go shopping for herself.

Jasmine Johnnae Clifton, 24, appeared in court on Monday after she was charged with two counts of fraud for using a business that has been disbanded to obtain relief funds via a Small Business Administration loan, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of North Carolina.

The release said that the Charlotte resident applied last year for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) — which is meant to aid businesses affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic — stating that her online clothing business, Jazzy Jas, was in need of aid. The business, however, had actually closed the previous year.

Clifton's application — "which included false information about revenues and a fraudulent tax document" — was accepted and she received the aid. According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, she allegedly used the money to make purchases at an array of stores, including Nordstrom, Ikea, Louis Vuitton, Best Buy, and more. Clifton also allegedly made purchases at multiple diamond stores, the release said.

Clifton's public defender, Nicole Lybrand, did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

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A grand jury previously indicted Clifton on charges of wire fraud in relation to a disaster benefit, and fraud in connection with major disaster or emergency benefits on Feb. 17, per the release.

The woman could potentially face up to 30 years in prison for each of her charges and could be required to pay a $1,000,000 fine for the charge of wire fraud in relation to disaster benefit.

With the fraud in connection with major disaster or emergency benefits, Clifton could also potentially pay up to a $250,000 fine.

Clifton appeared in court on Monday and has since been released on bond.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of North Carolina and the Department of Justice noted that they "remain vigilant in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting wrongdoing related to the COVID-19 pandemic," in the release.