ATLANTA — A federal grand jury has indicted individuals in two separate counts of fraud related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Kenneth Wilkerson was charged with his fraudulent acquisition of multiple small business Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and his illegal possession of multiple firearms. Jeremy Graves was charged with making multiple fraudulent unemployment insurance claims using victims’ stolen personal identification information.
“While communities suffered the effects of the pandemic, the federal government worked to help small businesses and individuals avoid a catastrophic economic disaster through the CARES Act,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan. “We will continue to investigate and prosecute those who obtained these loans illegally and work diligently to recover these funds, which are earmarked to support struggling business owners and families.”
Robert J. Murphy, the DEA’s Atlanta branch special agent in charge, stated: “No matter how hard Wilkerson tried to hide his money laundering activities behind the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) funds, it was a…” drug trafficking operation that generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in illicit revenue.”
“The defendant allegedly chose illegal possession of firearms,” said Alisha Jones, deputy special agent for the ATF’s Atlanta Field Division. “We will continue to prosecute those who try to circumvent the law.”
“An important part of the office of the inspector general’s job is to investigate allegations of fraud related to unemployment insurance programs. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to vigorously investigate these types of allegations,” said Mathew Broadhurst, special agent in charge of the Southeast region for the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of the Inspector General.
According to U.S. Attorney Buchanan, the charges and other information presented in court, Kenneth Wilkerson allegedly filed at least nine loan applications with financial institutions, authorized lenders and the Small Business Administration that contained fraudulent gross earnings information and false employees of his companies. He also allegedly submitted fake tax forms and bank statements to support his loan applications. Wilkerson allegedly received more than $383,000 in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) loans that he did not spend on approved business purposes.
Jeremy Graves allegedly used stolen identification documents to apply for and receive Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits – a program expanded during the COVID-19 pandemic with CARES Act funding in several states including Georgia, California, Maryland and Nevada became. In his applications, Graves gave various addresses, including his own, as the applicant’s mailing address. Debit cards with UI benefits were then mailed to these addresses. Graves allegedly called the bank associated with the debit cards to activate the cards, request new cards, and make other inquiries. The individuals whose identities were stolen and used to apply for unemployment insurance benefits did not apply for unemployment insurance benefits on their behalf, nor did they authorize anyone to do so. Graves allegedly received over $230,000 in unemployment benefits to which he was not entitled.
Kenneth Wilkerson, 39, of Atlanta, Georgia, was charged on a 16-count replacement charge with two counts of possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, two counts of bank fraud, 11 counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. Wilkerson allegedly filed fraudulent requests to receive more than $800,000 in PPP and EIDL funds for various seemingly defunct companies.
Jeremy Graves, 38, of Atlanta, Georgia, was charged in a 26-count indictment with 11 counts of wire fraud, eight counts of aggravated identity theft and seven counts of theft of federal funds. Graves is said to have applied for and received unemployment benefits in several states using stolen identities.
The public is reminded that the indictment contains only counts of charges. The defendants are presumed to be innocent of the charges and it is the government’s responsibility to prove the guilt of the defendants beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
The Kenneth Wilkerson case is being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The Jeremy Graves case is being investigated by the Department of Labour’s Office of Inspector General.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rebeca M. Ojeda and Mary Webb are prosecuting Kenneth Wilkerson. Assistant US Attorney Diane C. Schulman is prosecuting Jeremy Graves.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to pool the Department of Justice’s resources in collaboration with agencies across government to increase efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The task force increases efforts to identify and prosecute the most criminal domestic and international criminals and assists agencies charged with administering fraud prevention assistance programs, including through the enhancement and integration of existing coordination mechanisms, identification of resources and fraud detection techniques Stakeholders and their plans, and the sharing and use of information and lessons learned from previous enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus
Anyone with information about suspected fraud related to COVID-19 may report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline at 866-720-5721 or through the NCDF web complaint form at https:// /www .justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
For more information, please contact the US Attorney’s Office of Public Affairs at USAGAN.PressEmails@usdoj.gov or (404) 581-6016. The web address of the US Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia is http://www.justice.gov/usao-ndga.