A Dallas woman pled guilty on Thursday to defrauding federal COVID-19 pandemic relief programs to the tune of over $40,000.
Monica Moreno, 40, stood in federal court before Judge Irma Carrillo Ramirez of the Northern District of Texas on October 27 on charges of fraud.
She pled guilty to one count of theft of government property stemming from her misrepresenting herself as the owner of an income tax service business called JBP Financial to benefit from the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and more.
In total, Moreno wrongfully attained $44,757 in federal funds from the PPP, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program by submitting applications for over a year, according to a news release from the U.S. District Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Texas.
She additionally has been accused of failing to disclose in said applications that she had a prior conviction for aggravated identity theft, aiding and abetting, and conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government in 2015. For this offense, she was sentenced to 48 months in prison.
For the new charges, she could be sentenced to up to 10 years in federal prison for this alleged theft of government funds.
Fraud has been found to be rampant among claims made during the COVID-19 pandemic, with scammers seeking to benefit from taxpayer-sponsored relief packages, as previously reported by The Dallas Express. A study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimated that approximately $60 billion had been wrongfully attained by fraudsters.
However, these are not the only federal programs pilfered by criminals.
As recently reported by The Dallas Express, in September, several indictments were handed down to a doctor in Allen and two pharmacists in Houston for a massive healthcare fraud scheme allegedly yielding $170 million.
The perpetrators allegedly used pre-printed prescription pads for drugs with high reimbursement rates to illicitly obtain funds through the Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Program.
In Dallas, where crimes of all kinds continue to be a problem due to an ongoing officer shortage, incidents of fraud have shown no sign of abating. As of October 27, there had been 1,991 counterfeiting, forgery, and fraud offenses logged citywide, according to the City of Dallas Open Data crime overview dashboard.
Although an analysis completed in 2015 determined that a city the size of Dallas needs roughly 4,000 police officers to adequately maintain public safety, the Dallas Police Department currently employs fewer than 3,200.