Newark woman pleads guilty to paycheck protection program fraud

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NEWARK, DE – A Newark, Delaware woman is heading to prison after admitting her guilt in defrauding the U.S. Government through the pandemic paycheck protection program. Meant to help small businesses pay for employee wages, David C. Weiss, U.S. Attorney for the District of Delaware said the woman used those proceeds on personal expenses and defrauded the program with multiple false applications.

According to court documents, between March 30, 2020, and January 24, 2021, Ana Soto, 41, submitted seventeen fraudulent loan applications to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) and its authorized lenders in order to obtain loans through the small business loan programs established by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. 

“These seventeen loan applications were made on behalf of five entities controlled by Soto or her close relations.  Each of the loan applications falsely stated the amount of gross revenues, cost of goods sold, and number of employees,” Weiss said. “In some instances, the loan applications falsely claimed the businesses were in operation at the start of the Coronavirus Pandemic.  As a result of these false applications, Soto obtained approximately $246,000, and applied for, but was denied, an additional approximately $500,000 in CARES Act loans.”

Court records show Soto pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison when sentenced.  Chief Judge Connolly will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

U.S. Attorney Weiss stated, “Ms. Soto perpetrated her fraud by taking money from programs established to help the country’s small business owners during the early days of a global pandemic.  At a time of great uncertainty and vulnerability, the defendant sought to enrich herself through criminal acts.  My office remains committed to protecting the integrity of the CARES Act and all government programs.  Prosecuting those who defraud the government and steal from their fellow citizens is a priority, and we will aggressively pursue these actors.”

“CARES Act funds were intended to help people and businesses harmed by the pandemic, not to line the pockets of greedy individuals,” said Thomas J. Sobocinski, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Baltimore Field Office. “The FBI will continue to work with our partners to root out those who lie and cheat the government out of money to enrich themselves.”

“Ana Soto used deceit and fraud to obtain loans that she was not entitled to receive,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge Yury Kruty. “Her guilty plea is a reminder that IRS-CI, along with our partners, remain committed to investigating these types of crimes and holding the offenders accountable.”