MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA – On April 26, 2021, 52-year-old Zsa Zsa Bouvier Couch of Montgomery, Alabama was arrested on criminal charges related to federal small business loan fraud, acting U.S. attorney Sandra J. Stewart said. Couch first appeared before a federal court yesterday, April 27, 2021.
The fraud allegations relate to aid received through the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a federal law passed in March 2020 to help millions of Americans suffering from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic suffer from providing emergency financial aid. One source of relief from the CARES Act is the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which authorizes the disbursement of loans made to small businesses for job retention and certain other costs.
A grand jury in the Middle District of Alabama said Couch had filed at least six fraudulent loan applications under the US Small Business Administration’s PPP program that sought funds in excess of $ 1.6 million. In each of the applications, Couch incorrectly increased the number of employees who worked for her alleged companies as well as the average monthly payroll for the companies, which resulted in her being able to qualify for larger PPP loan amounts. Couch allegedly also made other misrepresentations in her application, such as failing to disclose that she applied for multiple PPP loans for the same company and failed to disclose her joint ownership of multiple companies. In support of the inflated headcount and average monthly payroll reported in the applications, Couch allegedly filed forged tax documents. As a result, Couch received an excessive amount from PPP loans that she was not eligible for. Ultimately, Couch received a total of $ 609,687.47 in PPP funding. It is believed that Couch then used the money to pay money to herself, her husband, and other family members, and to buy luxury vehicles.
Couch is charged with multiple cases of bank fraud, false information at a federally insured bank and money laundering. If convicted, Couch faces a maximum of 30 years in prison. A federal district judge determines each sentence based on U.S. sentencing guidelines and other legal factors.
An indictment is just an accusation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until found unequivocally guilty in a court of law.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the US Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigations, the Small Business Administration Office of the Inspector General, and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration investigated this case. US assistant attorneys Alice LaCour and Jonathan Ross are pursuing the case.
For information on the Justice Department’s efforts to stop illegal activities related to COVID-19, please visit www.justice.gov/coronavirus. For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and WHO websites.
The public is encouraged to report suspected fraud programs related to COVID-19 (the coronavirus) to the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline (NCDF) by telephone at (1-866-720-5721) or via an online reporting form at www.justice .gov / disaster fraud / web form / ncdf disaster complaint form.