United States Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Florida

04/17/2024 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 04/17/2024 11:39

Florida attorney sentenced to federal prison for role in COVID-19 fraud scheme

SAVANNAH, GA: A Florida attorney has been sentenced to federal prison and ordered to pay restitution for participating in a scheme to illegally obtain funding from a federal COVID-19 small business relief program.

Shaquandra Woods, 41, of Jacksonville, Fla., was sentenced to 75 months in prison for Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud, said Jill E. Steinberg, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. U.S. District Court Judge R. Stan Baker, who presided over the four-day trial in which a federal jury convicted Woods, also ordered her to pay $42,848 in restitution and to serve three years of supervised release upon completion of her prison term. There is no parole in the federal system.

"Shaquandra Woods prolifically filed fraudulent applications for COVID-19 pandemic relief funds for herself and for others," said U.S. Attorney Steinberg. "With our law enforcement partners, we will continue to prosecute those who engage in such self-enriching behavior at taxpayers' expense."

As authorized by the CARES Act, the Small Business Administration (SBA) provided Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) to eligible small businesses experiencing substantial financial interruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Woods, an attorney licensed to practice law in Florida and Georgia, completed at least nine applications for EIDL funding for herself and others, fabricating and submitting false documents to support the applications.

As a result of the fraudulent applications, Woods was successful in obtaining more than $300,000 for herself.

"Woods will now pay the price for stealing pandemic relief funds that others needed to keep a business open or to keep a roof over their heads," said Supervisory Senior Resident Agent Will Clarke of FBI Atlanta's Savannah Resident Agency. "Federal programs such as these are set up to help those in need, not to benefit criminals. Prosecution of those who illegally obtain government benefits will continue to be a priority for our office."

"Today's sentencing sends a clear message that those who defraud SBA's programs will be held accountable," said Amaleka McCall-Braithwaite, Special Agent in Charge of the Eastern Region of the SBA Office of Inspector General. "Our office will remain steadfast in pursuing those who exploit such vital resources for personal gain, ensuring accountability and justice for the American taxpayer. I want to thank the U.S. Attorney's office and our law enforcement partners for their unwavering commitment to pursuing justice in this case."

The case was investigated by the FBI and the Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General and prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan C. Grover and Former Senior Litigation Counsel Jenna G. Solari.

Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice's National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.