Two women charged with wire fraud for stealing millions from COVID relief funds | USAO-MN

ST. PAUL, Minnesota — Two women have been charged with engaging in fraudulent schemes to steal millions of dollars from COVID-19 relief funds, U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger has announced.

According to court documents, beginning in June 2020, Tequisha Solomon, 39, of Las Vegas, and Takara Hughes, 35, of Maplewood, defrauded the California Department of Employment Development (EDD) and the Department of Minnesota Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and other state agencies, submitting fraudulent claims and claims for unemployment benefits that have been authorized to relieve the American workforce due to the pandemic of COVID-19. For example, while Solomon and Hughes resided in Nevada or Minnesota, they falsely claimed that they resided in Los Angeles or San Diego and worked as hairstylists in California. As a result, California’s EDD paid Solomon at least $37,000 and Hughes at least $46,000 in unemployment benefits.

According to court documents, Solomon and Hughes also fraudulently applied for an Economic Disaster Disaster Loan (EIDL) and a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) small business loan, falsely claiming they owned businesses in cleaning services. As part of their fraudulent scheme, Solomon and Hughes submitted numerous fraudulent claims on behalf of others and charged a fee for submitting those claims. In total, as a direct result of the material lies and omissions, Solomon compelled the United States and several state agencies to pay out at least $4.1 million in fraudulent unemployment benefits and EIDL small business loan products and PPP. Hughes is responsible for at least $1.2 million in fraudulent benefits and loan proceeds.

Solomon is charged with six counts of wire fraud. In a separate indictment, Hughes is charged with five counts of wire fraud. The defendants are scheduled to make their first appearances in United States District Court before Magistrate Judge Tony N. Leung on July 15, 2022.

This case is the result of an investigation by the FBI, the U.S. Department of Labor-Office of Inspector General, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, with assistance from the St. Paul Police Department and the California Department of Employment Development.

Assistant United States Attorney Matthew S. Ebert is prosecuting the cases.

An indictment is only an allegation and the accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt by a court.