9 in Arizona accused of defrauding pandemic relief program

PHOENIX (AP) – Nine people in Arizona have been charged for fraudulently receiving more than $ 23 million in government pandemic aid.

Federal prosecutors allege Jason Coleman, 40, and Kimberly Coleman, 38, of Mesa conspired to prepare and file about two dozen fraudulent $ 30 million loan applications under the Paycheck Protection Program. Prosecutors said they received $ 13 million from 10 of their filings that say the couple presented fake employment data and a fictitious pay slip.

The PPP program gave billions of dollars of low-interest loans to employers that would be lent in full if the money were used for specific purposes such as labor costs. The program was launched at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic when officials ordered many companies to close and asked people to stay home.

Authorities claimed the Colemans used the money to buy four properties, including a $ 3.8 million home, luxury vehicles, furniture and investments.

Jason and Kimberly Coleman pleaded not guilty on Wednesday of conspiracy, bank fraud, wire transfer fraud and transactional money laundering. A judge ordered that they both be held in custody as they pose an escape risk and danger.

A lawyer for Kimberly Coleman, Joshua Kolsrud, declined to comment. Jason Coleman’s attorney was unavailable, but a receptionist said the firm has not commented on cases.

Meanwhile, a grand jury filed eight additional charges against seven people from the Phoenix area who were accused of fraudulently defrauding the pandemic relief program.

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