Meet Nikole Edwards.
Ah, Nikole, Nikole, Nikole.
There you were, living in American’s Finest City – San Diego – running your business, Social Savvy Marketing, and apparently doing all the right things.
You had at least two websites…
And two Facebook pages…
And two Twitter accounts:
And whatever this is…
Yes, Nikole, you were doing all the right things to build your name recognition…
And then you did a wrong thing.
And, I’m thinking, got the kind of name recognition you weren’t looking to get:
Nikole, your name is in a Department of Justice news release – that can’t be good!
The news release that says, among other things, you “applied for tens of thousands of dollars of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans with three financial institutions.” And that,
“After a representative from one financial institution told Edwards that Social Savvy Marketing could not receive a PPP loan, Edwards lied and said: ‘This is a lifeline for my employees and my business and we won’t survive without it.’”
So, the Department of Justice news release, and then more name recognition:
OK – let’s catch our breath, and do a bit of backstory.
Congress established the PPP on a bipartisan basis in the CARES Act in March 2020 to provide $349 billion in forgivable loans to eligible small businesses and non-profit organizations to cover payroll, rent, and utility payments to help them survive the coronavirus crisis. In April 2020, Congress appropriated an additional $321 billion for the program.
That’s a whole bunch of billions, and I guess you, Nikole, decided you were going to get yourself a “tens of thousands of dollars” slice of that pie.
So, even though you have no employees, you faked tax and payroll records for two staff to get a PPP loan.
And you were thorough – according to the Union-Tribune article,
“In April and May as shutdowns took hold, Nikole Edwards, 40, applied for government-backed PPP loans at three financial institutions. She provided false addresses and Social Security numbers for employees, as well as bogus W-2 forms, as part of at least one application submitted to the SBA, according to prosecutors.”
“Department of Justice.”
Now, those are scary words.
And here are some more:
“The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the SBA’s Office of Inspector General led the investigation.”
Nikole, you did a wrong thing, and you got caught.
You did, indeed get a loan.
But not “tens of thousands of dollars.”
You got a very small loan.
Not even $20,000 bucks, Nicole, and now…
For that lousy, not-even $20,000…
“She is scheduled for sentencing before U.S. District Judge Gonzalo Curiel on November 18. The charge of making a false statement to the SBA carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a $5,000 fine.”
Nikole, you could go to prison, you’re facing a $5,000 fine PLUS you must pay back the $19,583.
In fairness, I’ll say at least you did the right thing and pleaded guilty, saving us taxpayers the cost of your trial.
Unlike the many people who have done the same thing you did, according to this September 1 report from the U.S. House’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis:
The report goes on to list other dirtbags like you, Nikole, who are ripping off us taxpayers:
- Over $1 billion in loans went to companies that received multiple loans (PPP rules prohibit companies from receiving multiple loans).
- More than 600 loans totaling over $96 million went to companies excluded from doing business with the government.
- More than 350 loans worth $195 million went to government contractors flagged by the federal government for significant performance and integrity issues.
- Federal database raised red flags for $2.98 billion in loans to more than 11,000 PPP borrowers.
Talk about “fraud, waste and abuse.”
That’s what you did, Nikole.
Now let’s compare and contrast your story with another from the very same day:
The article cites a number of small business owners like you, Nikole.
But instead of defrauding us taxpayers…
“Many business owners are tapping the money they socked into personal savings and retirement accounts to withstand the pandemic. For some…there are big expenses coming due while for others it’s a way to offset the losses and stay afloat until the virus eases its grip.”
One small business owner is Tom Tunney (pictured). According to the article,
“Tom Tunney’s three Ann Sather restaurants are breakfast, brunch and lunch stalwarts in their Chicago neighborhoods. Social distancing requirements have curtailed revenue and the government loan Tunney got was quickly spent paying staff.
“Tunney, who’s also an alderman in the Chicago City Council, estimates he’s put $250,000 of his own money into running the restaurants. He dipped into proceeds of real estate sales to replace his lost revenue, and says he’s prepared to continue tapping savings until business returns to normal.
“‘My community and my business are everything, pretty much my family,’ Tunney says.”
Quite a difference, when you compare and contrast.
Tom Tunney got a government loan just like you did, Nikole.
He used it to pay his staff.
You created a fictitious staff.
And you were going to use those “tens of thousands of dollars” – if your “fraud, waste and abuse” been successful – for…
What, I’m wondering?
Maybe you could write sometime and tell me?
Looks like you’ll have plenty of time…
Nikole, it looks like you’ve also got plenty of company:
The article didn’t include you on its list of miscreants – no name recognition for you there – but it did list some others:
- Maurice Fayne, a reality TV star who received a $3.7 million PPP loan.
- New Jersey-based attorney Jae Choi, arrested and charged with fraudulently obtaining $9 million in pandemic loans through three separate lenders.
- Hollywood film producer William Sadleir, charged with fraudulently seeking more than $1.7 million in PPP loans.
Nikole, seriously – you are totally small potatoes compared to these guys.
But wait – I’ve saved the best for last:
David Hines got $3.9 million, and treated himself to a Lamborghini!
Nikole, meet David. David, meet Nikole: