North Carolina Woman Caught Using COVID-19 Relief Money to Purchase Clothes and Jewels, Police Say

Stock image of U.S. currency
Getty Stock Images

Jasmine Johnnae Clifton was charged in federal court with two counts of fraud for using a business that had been dissolved to get Covid-19-relief funds.

A 24-year-old North Carolina woman has been arrested for allegedly taking a loan out for a business that no longer exists and then using the COVID-19 relief money she received to go on a $149,000 shopping spree, officials said. 

On Feb. 17, a grand jury indicted Jasmine Johnnae Clifton on charges including wire fraud in relation to a disaster benefit and fraud in connection with major disaster or emergency benefits after she allegedly went on a shopping spree with money she received to support a business that had been dissolved, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina.

Some of the businesses she allegedly purchased high-ticket items from included Louis Vuitton, Neiman Marcus, Nordstrom's, as well as multiple diamond stores, authorities said. Clifton is accused of engaging in a scheme to defraud the Small Business Administration by obtaining an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) based on false information, the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a release.

The loan was part of the CARES Act's Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program. Funds were provided by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to North Carolina small businesses "suffering substantial economic injury" due to the pandemic, according to an SBA release.

More than 74% of small businesses reported experiencing either an overall moderate or large negative effect due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to recent data available from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey

"My office is working hard to ferret out criminals who try to exploit the pandemic and steal funds intended for the economic recovery of businesses and communities across the Western District of North Carolina.” U.S. Attorney Andrew Murray told CNN.

Clifton appeared in court last week and was released on $25,000 bond. Clifton is being represented by a public defender, who declined to comment due to the case’s pending status, CNN reported.