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Mother and Daughter Sentenced To Prison For COVID Relief Fraud

Andrea and Alicia Ayers will spend multiple years in prison for stealing almost $1.7 million from the Small Business Administration.

A mother and daughter in New York have been sentenced to prison for unjustly receiving $1.7 million in a COVID-19 relief fraud. The mother, Andrea Ayers, was a civilian employee of the Mount Vernon Police Department.

The Journal News reports U.S. District Judge Nelson Roman sentenced Ayers to three-and-a-half years in prison; her daughter, Alicia, received a sentence of two years. The younger Ayers, a financial advisor and accountant, will serve 6 months on house arrest following the prison stint.

The scheme consisted of both women submitting over 300 fake applications to the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Program within three weeks. The women submitted the applications on behalf of family and friends, receiving nearly a third of the $10,000 each grant paid out. Many applicants were unaware of the plan’s illegal nature.

Only business owners with at least 10 employees qualified for the grants, a requirement held by virtually none of those the Ayers submitted for. They were arrested in March 2021; the women pleaded guilty to wire fraud and making false statements.

The judge rejected the Ayers’ requested bids for leniency, leaving them to face time in prison for their million-dollar fraud. Their attorneys argued for home confinement for the first offense due to the family responsibility and their remorse for what they did.

Their final sentences included less time than what prosecutors sought. The lawyers initially requested between 5 and 6 years of incarceration. Despite the shorter prison time, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams hopes their punishment serves as a warning to others.

“These defendants stole from a taxpayer-funded program intended to help small businesses that were in desperate need of assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Williams said in a statement. “As their convictions and sentences reflect, my Office is determined to continue to work to bring to justice those who exploit and defraud government programs during a national emergency.”

The judge also ordered the women to forfeit $1.69 million. They must report to prison by August 2.

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