North Carolina woman went on shopping spree with $150,000 COVID relief loan

A North Carolina woman who allegedly created false documents to qualify for a nearly $150,000 coronavirus relief loan is accused of spending the money on shopping trips to Neiman Marcus, Louis Vuitton, Nordstrom and multiple diamond stores, according to prosecutors.

Jasmine Johnnae Clifton, 24, applied for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) in March 2020, allegedly citing the false claim that her online clothing business, Jazzy Jas, was harmed due to shutdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic despite the business closing the previous year.

According to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina, Clifton allegedly falsified documents showing her business taking in $350,000 in gross revenue over 12 months, though paperwork filed earlier showed it dissolved in September 2019.

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The federal government passed the CARES Act in March 2020 to provide emergency assistance to Americans impacted by the economic effects of the pandemic. The legislation allowed for the expansion of several programs like EIDL, which provides financing at low interest rates to small businesses, homeowners and renters negatively impacted by disasters.

Clifton was approved for $149,900, which she spent at more than two dozen retailers including Ikea, Best Buy and Rooms to Go, according to prosecutors.

A grand jury indicted Clifton on charges of wire fraud in relation to a disaster benefit and fraud in connection with major disaster or emergency benefits on Feb. 17. She appeared in court Monday and has since been released on $25,000 bond, The Associated Press reported.

Clifton could face up to 30 years in prison for each charge and could be required to pay nearly $1.25 million in combined fines, the AP noted.

A defender for Clifton declined to comment on the charges Tuesday, according to the AP.

The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of North Carolina along with the Department of Justice have stated that they "remain vigilant in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting wrongdoing related to the COVID-19 pandemic," the release states.