OAKLAND (CBS SF) – An Oakland woman was accused of defrauding federal COVID aid programs and using the money received to fund a luxurious lifestyle, including private jet travel, expensive cars and luxury goods.
Christina Burden, 31, was arrested Friday in Austin, Texas on a federal criminal complaint charging her with bank fraud in an alleged pandemic relief loan scheme, according to U.S. Northern California Attorney David Anderson.
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Between April and June 2020, Burden allegedly filed ten fraudulent applications for over $ 4.5 million in indulgent loans from the government’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Burden received $ 684,375 from one of the applications for a Shell company, Blessing Box Co. LLC, and additional PPP funding of $ 307,916 for three other Shell companies, according to the complaint.
During that time, Burden also allegedly filed a fraudulent Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL) application for one of the same Shell entities and received $ 150,900 in funding. The four companies were recently founded by Burden and do not appear to have legitimate businesses or employees, the complaint read.
While the federal PPP requires funds to be used for legitimate business and labor costs, Burden in the complaint spent the majority of it on personal indulgences such as private jets, hotel stays, boat rentals, expensive cars, and luxury goods purchased by Louis Vuitton and Neiman Marcus were. The funds were also reportedly used to purchase specialty items from Sunglass Hut, Wayfair and the San Francisco Giants Dugout Store, among others
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In addition, the complaint alleges that Burden transferred hundreds of thousands of dollars to friends and family members, of which $ 150,000 was spent in part on Mercedes and Land Rover vehicles.
“The Paycheck Protection Program provides a financial lifeline for businesses in need and their employees,” Anderson said in a prepared statement. “We claim Christina Burden obtained PPP funds through fraud by submitting incorrect business information, incorrect employee numbers, incorrect bank statements and incorrect tax returns. She used these funds on a shopping spree on entertainment, luxury goods, and high-end excursions, including travel by private jet. “
“As we begin a second round of PPP loans for small businesses struggling during this pandemic, we will be alert to scammers trying to take advantage of the program,” said Craig Fair, FBI special agent in San Francisco. “Those who seek to defraud programs designed to help those in need should know that the FBI and our partners are pursuing all investigative tools at our disposal to ensure the integrity of these programs and that they continue to be available to small business owners in our community. “
According to the complaint, Burden’s loan applications incorrectly stated that each company was up and running prior to February 15, 2020 and had up to 89 employees and monthly wages in excess of $ 700,000. However, the tax records show that, according to the complaint, none of their offices paid wage tax or submitted wage tax forms. Bank records also allegedly show that payroll payments have been treated versus actual bank records.
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Burden’s is due to appear for the first time in the US District Court in Austin on Monday. It is expected to appear in the US District Court in Oakland later to face the indictment in the federal complaint. She faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $ 1 million bank fraud fee fine if convicted.