ATLANTA — A Newton County resident has been arraigned on federal charges stemming from a scheme to use a company she started to steal more than $323,000 from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
Olivia Ware, 61, of Oxford, who is also a former candidate for mayor of Conyers, is charged with bank fraud and money laundering, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
According to Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine, the charges, and other information presented in court today, March 16, Ware was the CEO of a Georgia company in 2020 called Let’s Talk About the Family Inc., but according to state records, it did not pay wages to any employees.
Yet, Ware allegedly submitted a false application to a bank for a PPP loan for the company that included fictitious tax records purporting to show the company had 54 employees that were paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in salary, the release stated.
As a result of this materially false information, the bank loaned more than $323,000 in PPP funds to Ware’s company.
Ware then allegedly spent the PPP loan for her own benefit, including to buy an in-ground swimming pool, furniture, and other home improvement items, and to pay down the principal on her mortgage.
The PPP is an emergency funding program created to assist small business owners and their employees during the coronavirus pandemic. PPP loans are fully guaranteed by the federal Small Business Administration (SBA).
Ware faces charges of bank fraud and money laundering. She was arraigned on a criminal information today, March 16, the release stated.
“Authorities continue to examine Paycheck Protection Program loans for acts of fraud, as the charges against Ware demonstrate,” Erskine said. “Those who would consider stealing from the Paycheck Protection Program should think twice.”
Special Agent in Charge Katrina W. Berger, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama, said, “It has been said that bad times bring out the best in people. This case is not an example of that."
"Ware tried to defraud the government out of money meant to help small businesses affected by the pandemic continue operations and take care of their employees. Instead of helping others through a difficult time as the money was intended, she used the money for personal gain,” Berger said.
“Every time a fraudster steals money from the PPP fund another legitimate business is unable to get those funds to help real employees with real families. HSI’s Operation Stolen Promise protects the country from the threat of COVID-19-related fraud and criminal activity.”
The release also stated, "Members of the public are reminded that the criminal information only contains charges. The defendant is presumed innocent of the charges and it will be the government’s burden to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial."
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations is investigating the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Bernita B. Malloy and Trevor C. Wilmot are prosecuting it.