Portland woman pleads guilty to stealing small business COVID relief funds

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A Portland woman pleaded guilty today to scheming to steal funds meant to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Kimberly Aralene Wells, 40, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. 

Court documents show that Wells, a housekeeper, devised a scheme in the summer of 2020 to fraudulently apply for CARES Act-authorized Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and Economic Injury Distastes Loans (EIDL) using a fictitious company. 

Wells used her fake company, Kim’s Cleaning Inc., to apply for PPP loans from Itria Ventures LLC, an online commercial lending platform based in New Jersey. 

She falsely claimed in her loan applications that her business posted gross annual receipts of more than $600,000 and maintained an average monthly payroll of more than $19,000.

Her company actually existed in name only and had no employees. 

Itria gave nearly $49,000 in PPP funds to Wells in February 2021 as a result. Wells then used the money to pay for personal expenses, including travel and gambling. 

Wells also submitted three fraudulent EIDL applications that were denied by the SBA between July 2020 and May 2021. 

On November 11, 2021, a federal grand jury in Portland returned a three-count indictment charging Wells with wire fraud.

Wells faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

She will be sentenced on August 8, 2022 before U.S. District Court Judge Michael H. Simon.

As part of her plea agreement, Wells has agreed to pay $51,457 in restitution to Itria and SBA.

U.S. Attorney Scott Erik Asphaug of the District of Oregon made the announcement.

This case was investigated by the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), the SBA Office of Inspector General, and the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan W. Bounds is prosecuting the case.

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