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6 arrested in scheme to steal $2.7 million in COVID relief funds meant for King County, WA

U.S. Attorney Nick Brown said the defendants submitted over 125 fraudulent applications for various COVID-19 pandemic relief programs, seeking over $6.8 million.

SEATTLE — Six people are charged with defrauding the federal government in a scheme to steal nearly $7 million in COVID-19 relief funds intended for Washington state renters and small businesses.

The indictment alleges, in total, that the defendants submitted over 125 fraudulent applications for various COVID-19 pandemic relief programs, seeking over $6.8 million and receiving and pocketing over $3.3 million beginning in April 2020. The defendants allegedly defrauded the Small Business Administration, in addition to defrauding millions from federal relief intended for rental assistance in Washington state.

“The case that we are announcing today is shocking in that all the people charged were relentless in defrauding nearly every form of assistance the government was providing during the height of the national crisis. This included aid intended for some of the most vulnerable people here in Washington state and small businesses that were struggling to get by,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown.

The indictment alleges the defendants posed as landlords and submitted phony applications as tenants claiming to qualify for up to 12 months of back and future rent. Brown said each fake application resulted in payments of $30,000 to $40,000 to the defendants posing as the fake landlords.

Brown said the alleged leader in the scheme, Paradise Shaw Williams, received kickbacks and pocketed more than $740,000, posing as the landlord in at least 21 different tenant applications. He said the defendants also made fake eviction notices to push their fake applications to the top of the line as pandemic relief funds were running low.

Williams and others submitted at least 35 fraudulent applications for Economic Injury Disaster Loans and at least 13 fake applications to the Paycheck Protection Program, seeking more than $3.9 million from the Small Business Administration. The U.S. Attorney's Office said Williams assisted the other defendants with forging documents and fake tax statements.

Brown said the defendants used the stolen money for shopping sprees, luxury vehicles, jewelry and travel. In one instance one of the defendants used the money for a trip to Miami where they rented a Lamborghini.

In addition to Williams the grand jury indicted:

  • Rayvon Darnell Peterson, 32, of Seattle
  • Tia Janee Robinson, 28, of Fife
  • Jahari Asad Cunningham, 45, of Houston, Texas
  • D’arius Akim Jackson, 37, Bonney Lake
  • David Jesus Martinez, 32, Pacific, Washington

In addition to the rental assistance fraud, members of the group defrauded or attempted to defraud the unemployment systems in Washington, California, South Carolina, and Nevada.

The charges include wire fraud and money laundering. If convicted, the defendants face a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.

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