Lori Hammond, a/k/a Lori McCracken, a/k/a Lori Blakely, 54, of Summerville, Christopher Conrad, 41, of Holly Hill, Catherine “Cassie” Needham, 38, of Manning, and Jontrell Wright, 37, of Orangeburg, were sentenced to federal prison after being convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud for submitting fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan applications and misusing the funds. The Honorable David C. Norton presided over the sentencing hearings in Charleston.
Evidence presented during the sentencing hearings established that Lori Hammond submitted more than $11 million is fraudulent loan applications for PPP and COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster (EIDL) loans for her personal enrichment and the personal enrichment of her co-conspirators Conrad, Needham, and Wright. The loan applications contained inflated employee and payroll funds, were often submitted on behalf of companies that did not exist or were inactive and included fake business addresses and fraudulent tax documents. More than $5.8 million in PPP and EIDL loans were paid to Hammond and her co-conspirators.
Hammond personally received $3,162,038.50 in PPP and EIDL loan funds. Hammond thereafter spent the money on personal expenses, including purchasing a home, luxury vehicles, a golf cart, and plastic surgery. On Oct. 17, the Court sentenced Hammond to 80 months imprisonment, followed by a three-year term of supervised release. The Court also ordered Hammond to pay $2,722,932.50 in restitution, representing the remaining outstanding unpaid loans funds.
Conrad fraudulently received $898,300.00 in loan funds and spent the funds largely on unapproved personal expenses. On Nov. 14, the Court sentenced Conrad to 12 months and one day incarceration, followed by a three-year term of supervised release. The Court ordered Conrad to pay $898,300.00 in restitution.
Needham fraudulently received $1,244,200.00 and thereafter used the funds for improper personal expenses, including purchasing property, a golf cart, a pool, home improvements, and plastic surgery. On Sept. 13, the Court sentenced Needham to 21-months incarceration, followed by a three-year term of supervised release. The Court ordered Needham to pay $1,244,200.oo in restitution.
Wright fraudulently received $561,700.00 in loan funds and thereafter spent the funds on unapproved personal expenses. On Dec. 19, 2022, the Court sentenced Wright to 15 months incarceration, followed by a three-year term of supervised release. The Court ordered Wright to pay $561,700.00 in restitution.
“While millions of South Carolinians were struggling during the pandemic, these defendants defrauded the systems meant to provide relief,” said U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina Adair F. Boroughs. “We will continue to pursue bad actors such as these and hold them accountable for exploiting these resources for their own gain.”
“These sentences reflect the severity of PPP loan fraud,” said Steve Jensen, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Columbia Field Office. “Such crimes challenge the integrity of relief programs designed for those who need assistance most. The FBI is committed to holding offenders accountable and safeguarding loan programs to ensure the public’s trust in our financial systems.”
This case was investigated by the FBI Columbia Field Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Limehouse prosecuted this case.