OAKLAND (CBS SF) – An Oakland woman has been charged with defrauding federal COVID relief programs and using the money raised to fund a luxury lifestyle, including private jet travel, expensive automobiles and luxury goods.
Christina Burden, 31, was arrested in Austin, Texas on Friday in a federal criminal complaint accusing her of bank fraud in an alleged scheme to obtain pandemic relief loans , according to U.S. District Attorney for the Northern District of California, David Anderson.
Between April and June 2020, Burden reportedly submitted ten fraudulent claims for more than $ 4.5 million in recoverable loans from the government’s Paycheck Protection Program (P3). Burden received $ 684,375 from one of the claims from a shell “Blessing Box Co. LLC” and another $ 307,916 from PPP funds for three other shell companies, according to the complaint.
Meanwhile, Burden also allegedly submitted a fraudulent Economic Disaster Lending Program (EIDL) application for one of the same shell entities and received $ 150,900 in funds. The four entities were recently created by Burden and do not appear to engage in legitimate business or have employees, according to the complaint.
While the federal PPP requires that the funds be used for legitimate business and salary expenses, the complaint states that Burden spent the bulk on personal indulgences such as private jet travel, hotel stays, and car rentals. boats, expensive automobiles, luxury goods purchased from Louis Vuitton and Neiman Marcus. . The funds were also reportedly used to purchase specialty items at the Sunglass Hut, Wayfair and the San Francisco Giants Dugout Store, among others.
Additionally, the complaint also alleges that Burden wired hundreds of thousands of dollars to friends and family, of which $ 150,000 was spent in part on Mercedes and Land Rover vehicles.
“The Paycheck Protection Program provides a financial lifeline to businesses in need and their employees,” Anderson said in a prepared statement. “We allege that Christina Burden obtained PPP funds by fraud, submitting false business information, false employee numbers, false bank statements and false income tax returns. She used the funds for a spending spree on entertainment, luxury goods and high-end excursions, including private jet travel. “
“As we begin a second round of PPP loans for small businesses struggling during this pandemic, we will be on the alert for scammers looking to take advantage of the program,” said FBI San Francisco Special Agent in Charge Craig Fair. . “Those who wish to defraud programs designed to help those in need should know that the FBI and our partners will use all investigative tools at our disposal to ensure the integrity of these programs and that they remain available to owners. small businesses in our community. “
According to the complaint, Burden’s loan applications incorrectly indicated that each business was in business before February 15, 2020, and its businesses had up to 89 employees and monthly salary expenses of more than $ 700,000. However, tax records show that none of its entities paid payroll taxes or submitted payroll tax forms, according to the complaint. Bank records would also show that salary expense payments were falsified against actual bank records.
Burden’s is scheduled to appear in US District Court in Austin for the first time on Monday, and is expected to appear later in US District Court in Oakland to face the charge in the federal lawsuit. She faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a fine of $ 1 million for bank fraud, if convicted.