Tennessee woman charged with fraud in PPP scam

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WREG)— A Memphis woman is accused of illegally obtaining thousands of dollars in federal PPP loans, and spending the money on personal travel, concerts, gambling and a new Maserati.

Kenyatta Danielle Hooper, 34, was charged by a federal grand jury in May with six counts of wire fraud. She was arrested last week, according to U.S. Attorney Joseph C. Murphy of the Western District of Tennessee.

Murphy’s office said Hooper allegedly submitted fake documents and fraudulent applications for the Payment Protection Plan loans and directed others to do the same. Those loans were supposed to be used for business payroll, rent or utilities as part of the government’s effort to assist small businesses in the wake of COVID-19.

But authorities said Hooper spent the money on herself, including the purchase of the sports car. She also allegedly took kickbacks for helping others to file fraudulent loan applications.

The fraudulent scheme drew sharp comments from the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee, saying in part, “Bad actors, unfortunately, have targeted this critical assistance program and fraudulently diverted much-needed resources.”

Prosecutors did not reveal many details about the scheme, but Kenyatta Hooper in Memphis is listed in an online database as having received a PPP loan worth $38,070 in March 2021. The business listed on her application was classified as a hobby, toy or game store with four employees.

Records show Hooper is also listed as sole owner for Smart Money Solutions on East Shelby Drive. The now-vacant business also received a PPP loan in the amount of $20,833 in April 2021.

An employee at one of the other businesses in the strip mall, who didn’t want to be identified, said she had only seen Hooper a couple of times at Smart Money Solutions and never saw any customers inside.

We tried to reach Hooper at a number given for the business but got a recording.

The Memphis Field Office of the United States Secret Service assisted the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Hooper’s arrest.

Hooper faces up to 20 years in federal prison on each wire fraud count.

In April, a former Memphis Police clerk was arrested and charged with illegally obtaining PPP loans for the purchase of a house.


Christin Hakim

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