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Sunday, October 1, 2023

Ocala woman pleads guilty to stealing over $20k in COVID-19 relief funds

An Ocala woman who obtained a fraudulent COVID-19 relief loan is facing up to two decades in prison and over $20,000 in fines after pleading guilty to one count of wire fraud.

Roger B. Handberg, United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida, announced on Tuesday that 30-year-old Passion Lajodia Jackson has pleaded guilty to wire fraud related to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Passion Lajodia Jackson
Passion Lajodia Jackson, 30, of Ocala

Jackson now faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison and an order of forfeiture for at least $20,132, which represents the proceeds that she obtained from the offense.

According to court records, on April 2, 2021, Jackson electronically submitted a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan application to the Small Business Administration. Her application included false statements, and she also provided a fictitious Internal Revenue Service document in support of her application.

On April 6, 2021, Jackson fraudulently received a PPP loan of $20,132 based on the false information that she provided on the application. The loan was electronically wired to her bank account, and she withdrew the funds in cash within 30 days.

This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and it is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Hannah Nowalk.

In May 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice, in partnership with agencies across government, to help combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud.

Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Justice Department’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or by submitting a complaint form on NCDF’s website.