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Another Mobile defendant pleads guilty to defrauding COVID program

By Brendan Kirby

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    MOBILE, Alabama (WALA) — Another defendant pleaded guilty Wednesday to fraudulently obtaining money under the Paycheck Protection Program, adding to the growing list of cases in the federal court here.

Tiffny Millender, of Mobile, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and Small Business Administration fraud.

Millender admitted that she filed a fraudulent application in April last year, claiming that she earned $91,788 the prior year from a catering and decorating business. The Small Business Administration approved that application an sent a loan of $19,111 to the defendant. In August last year, the Small Business Administration forgave that loan under rules established by Congress.

Millender admitted to the FBI that she filed the application, according to court records.

Congress rushed money to businesses in the early days of the pandemic in an effort to keep idled employees on payrolls until the crisis passed. The government asked few questions. Some experts estimate that criminal stole as much as $80 billion in Paycheck Protection Program funds through fraud.

Prosecutors in Mobile have pursued some of that, including people who claimed to be running businesses when they were serving prison sentences.

That was not the case for Millender. She was working at a Greer’s grocery store and a side catering and decorating business. But even though business was legitimate, Millender’s plea agreement states, she did not earn the income she claimed either in 2019 or 2020. She told investigators that she did only one or two jobs a month for between $1,200 and $3,500 per event.

Millender told the FBI that someone else helped her file the false claims but could only provide the first name. She said she had deleted that person’s contact information, according to the plea document.

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