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La. Treasurer reports indictments for 5 people on small business pandemic relief fraud

3 months 2 weeks 4 days ago Monday, June 05 2023 Jun 5, 2023 June 05, 2023 11:08 AM June 05, 2023 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - Monday, State Treasurer John Schroeder reported the indictments of five people for fraud in a relief program designed to help keep small businesses afloat during the pandemic. 

The individuals—38-year-old Terez Bradley, 45-year-old Althea Scott, 59-year-old Viola Combs, 37-year-old Geona Garrett, and 34-year-old Geliss Garrett—were all indicted for government benefits fraud, computer fraud, and theft. The five are accused of stealing from the Main Street Recovery Program, a government program designed to help small businesses in Louisiana during the height of the pandemic. 

The five were indicted by an East Baton Rouge Parish Grand Jury in the 19th Judicial District.

“This was supposed to be a program to help small businesses, not line people's pockets," Schroeder said. "I have zero tolerance for fraud. It is shameful that government lets people get away with it,” Schroder said. “This is just one program. As a former law enforcement officer I believe all agencies should take every opportunity to investigate, prosecute and convict those who break the law.”

Schroeder said he personally called the five accused to recoup money that was found to have been gained through providing false information. “I would call around dinner time and people at first didn’t believe it was really me – the State Treasurer – calling them,” he said. “I informed them that Treasury had been made aware of their ‘incorrect application submission’ and that they needed to return their money.” As of June 1, $466K in cash has been retrieved and $580K resolved for a total of over $1 million recovered.

Despite the five reported frauds, Schroeder also said the fraud rate for the MSRP was approximately 1.32%, a significantly low rate compared to the average 15.2% for similar programs in other states. 

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