St. Louis woman admits $291,000 pandemic loan fraud

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

ST. LOUIS – A woman from St. Louis on Friday admitted fraudulently obtaining a $291,000 loan meant to help businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

Porshia L. Thomas, 31, pleaded guilty to a felony bank fraud charge and admitted that between April and September of 2020, she executed a scheme to fraudulently obtain a Paycheck Protection Program loan.

Thomas registered a company called Couture Trading Inc. in Montana on April 7, 2020. On July 15, 2020, she applied for a PPP loan by making a series of false claims. She claimed the company had a Beverly Hills address, had been in operation for five months, had 15 employees, had an average monthly payroll of $120,000 and that the loan would be used on expenses permitted under the program, including payroll and mortgage, lease and utility payments.

The company had few, if any, employees or payroll expenses.

Thomas also submitted Internal Revenue Service forms listing false information about employees and wages, bogus Wells Fargo bank statements and a fake letter from a Wells Fargo branch manager verifying that Couture Trading had an account.

On Sept. 8, 2020, Couture Trading received $291,600.

Thomas used some of the loan for a 2018 Audi S5 Sportback Quattro, paid someone whose name was listed in company documentation $75,000, and used more for living expenses and for purchases at Neiman Marcus, Ulta Beauty, Bath and Body Works and Victoria’s Secret.

Thomas is scheduled to sentenced on September 21. She will be ordered to repay any of the money that has not been recovered.

 “Law abiding citizens are frustrated with those who lie and cheat to get access to money not intended for them,” said Charles Miller, assistant special agent in charge of IRS-Criminal Investigation’s St. Louis field office. “Anyone engaging in this type of financial fraud should be put on notice. They will not go undetected and will be held accountable.”

IRS-Criminal Investigation conducted the investigation.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Derek Wiseman is prosecuting the case.   

To report suspected pandemic fraud, go to the Justice Department’s National Center for Disaster Fraud at www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud or call the Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721.