3 Metro Detroiters, 19 others charged in $11 million COVID payment protection fraud scheme

Residents from Warren, Rochester Hills, Macomb named in release

Money.
Money. (Pexels)

Three residents from Metro Detroit and 19 others across the country have been charged in connection with an $11 million fraud scheme centered around COVID-19 paycheck protection loans for businesses, feds said.

In a release from the United States Department of Justice, residents from Warren, Rochester Hills and Macomb were mentioned among 24 people involved in the scheme.

How the scheme worked

According to federal authorities, a large group of people worked to steal about $11.1 million from the Paycheck Protection Program and use that money to buy luxury vehicles, jewelry and other personal items.

Between May 2020 and August 2020, these people submitted or helped others submit PPP loan applications on behalf of 14 businesses, feds allege. They sought loans of about $800,000 for each company, according to officials.

In those applications, the defendants certified that the businesses had been in operation on Feb. 15, 2020 and were paying salaries and payroll taxes for employees or independent contractors, the release says.

The applications said federal funds would be used to retain workers, maintain payroll or make mortgage interest, lease and utility payments during the pandemic, according to authorities.

Officials said each businesses reported having around 60 employees and about $300,000 in average monthly payroll expenses. The people sending in the applications used fraudulent IRS Form 941 documents, which are used to report payroll taxes, authorities said.

After the money was deposited into each business account, it was distributed amongst the people involved in the scheme, officials said. They would disguise the origins fo the funds and how they were spent, according to court records.

The money was used to buy luxury goods, two Range Rovers, an Acura NSX and a Mercedes Benz S-Class S65 AMG, among other things, federal officials report.

18 people charged

Federal officials recently charged 18 people in connection with this case.

Of those 18, 14 were charged in a first superseding indictment that was unsealed July 14. Here are those 14 people:

Ricky Dixon, 52, of Warren, Michigan, is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud, false statements to a federally insured financial institution, aggravated identity theft, and money laundering in connection with his involvement in the loan obtained by his business, RK Painting Co., and several other businesses’ loans.

Meghan Thomas, 32, of Alpharetta, Georgia, is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud, and false statements to a federally insured financial institution in connection with her involvement in several businesses’ loans.

Jesika Blakely, 34, of Atlanta, Georgia, is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud, false statements to a federally insured financial institution, and money laundering in connection with her involvement in several businesses’ loans.

Amanda Christian, 33, of Blythewood, South Carolina, is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud, and false statements to a federally insured financial institution in connection with her involvement in the loan obtained by her business, Advertising and Then Some Inc., and several other businesses’ loans.

Dwan Ashong, aka Dwan Gilpin, 40, of Jacksonville, Florida, is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering in connection with her involvement in several businesses’ loans.

John Gaines, aka Marty Gaines, 56, of Marietta, Georgia, is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud, false statements to a federally insured financial institution, and money laundering in connection with the loan obtained by Gaines Reservation and Travel.

Charles Petty, aka Charles Knight, 48, of Atlanta, Georgia, is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud, false statements to a federally insured financial institution, and money laundering in connection with the loan obtained by Transportation Management Services Inc.

Jerry Baptiste, 43, of College Park, Georgia, is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud, false statements to a federally insured financial institution, and money laundering in connection with the loan obtained by Transportation Management Services Inc.

Derek Parker, 56, of Rochester Hills, Michigan, is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering in connection with the loan obtained by his business, D Parker Holdings Inc.

David Belgrave II, 49, of Lexington, South Carolina, is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud, bank fraud, wire fraud, false statements to a federally insured financial institution, and money laundering in connection with the loan obtained by his business, Continuing Success Inc.

Charles Hill IV, 45, of Norcross, Georgia, is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering in connection with the loan obtained by his business, Infinite Education Services Inc.

Ryan Whittley, 35, of South Holland, Illinois, is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering in connection with the loan obtained by his business, ML Exotic Customs Inc.

El Hadj Sall, 39, of Jacksonville, Florida, is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering in connection with the loan obtained by his business, Bellevie Corp.

Rick McDuffie, 50, of Little Rock, South Carolina, is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud in connection with the loan obtained by his business, Mickies Auto and Tire LLC.

Three additional people were charged by criminal information. Here are their names:

Teldrin Foster, 39, of Decatur, Georgia, is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with the loan obtained by Bellator Phront Group Inc.

Denesseria Slaton, 52, of Stockbridge, Georgia, is charged with conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud in connection with the loan obtained by Transportation Management Services Inc.

Charmaine Redding, 27, of Macomb, Michigan, is charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with the loan obtained by her business, All Star Room and Board Services of Michigan Inc.

Another defendant, Carla Jackson, 53, of Tucker, Georgia, was previously charged by indictment on Aug. 4, 2020, with money laundering in connection with laundering the proceeds of Gaines Reservation and Travel’s PPP loan.

If convicted, these people face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the wire fraud and money laundering charges and a maximum of 30 years on the bank fraud and false statement to a federally insured bank charge.

Dixon also faces an additional two-year sentence on the aggravated identity theft charge.

A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Mastermind pleads guilty

Six of the people involved have already pleaded guilty since the original indictment was returned Aug. 4, officials said.

Among them is Darrell Thomas, 35, of Duluth, Georgia -- the man considered the mastermind of the scheme.

Darrell Thomas pleaded guilty on June 16 to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud and one count of money laundering.

As part of his guilty plea, Darrell Thomas admitted his participation in fraudulent conduct totaling more than $14.7 million, including approximately $11.2 million in fraudulent PPP loans, more than $1.15 million in fraudulent Economic Injury Disaster Loans, and more than $2.4 million in fraudulent automobile loans.

Officials said he also agreed to forfeit various assets, including more than $2.1 million in seized funds, three luxury vehicles -- a 2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class S65AMG, a 2018 Land Rover Range Rover, and a 2017 Acura NSX -- and several items of jewelry, including a gold Rolex.

His sentencing is set for Sept. 15.

5 plead guilty

Slaton pleaded guilty on June 16 to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud wire fraud in connection with the loan obtained by Transportation Management Services Inc. Slaton’s sentencing is set for Oct. 6.

Khalil Gibran Green Sr., 47, of Cleveland, Ohio, pleaded guilty on Sept. 1 to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud in connection with the loan obtained by his business, Impact Creations LLC.

On Jan. 14, Judge J.P. Boulee sentenced Green to three years and five months in prison and five years of supervised release, and ordered him to pay $830,000 in restitution and forfeiture of $157,035.71.

Bern Benoit, 45, of Burbank, California, pleaded guilty on March 11 to one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud in connection with the loan obtained by his business, Transportation Management Services Inc. Benoit’s sentencing is set for Sept. 8.

Redding pleaded guilty on July 14 to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with the loan obtained by her business, All Star Room and Board Services of Michigan Inc. Redding’s sentencing is set for Oct. 21.

Andre Lee Gaines, 67, of Dallas, Georgia, pleaded guilty on June 17 to one count of making false statements to the FBI in connection with the loan obtained by his business, Gaines Reservation and Travel. Andre Gaines’ sentencing is set for Oct. 6.


About the Author:

Derick is a Senior Web Producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with Local 4 News since April 2013. Derick specializes in breaking news, crime and local sports.