Woman pleads guilty to stealing stimulus payment
A Hawkins woman has pleaded guilty to federal violations in the Eastern District of Texas, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei.
Brianna Clarisse Banks, 24, pleaded guilty to theft of government money Wednesday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Roy Payne.
“COVID has been financially devastating for many East Texans, especially for those who were already struggling,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Nicholas J. Ganjei. “Thieves who take the federal funds intended for the financially vulnerable will be aggressively investigated and prosecuted in the Eastern District of Texas.”
According to information presented in court, in April of 2020, the U.S. Treasury issued an Economic Impact Payment (EIP) check in the amount of $1,200.00, made payable to an individual and mailed it to that individual’s post office box in Avinger. Banks stole the EIP check from the individual’s post office box and then used the victim’s name, social security number, and date of birth to open a checking account, but used Banks’ mailing address for the address on the account. Banks deposited the stolen EIP check into the fraudulently opened bank account and then withdrew the funds and spent them for her own personal benefit.
A federal grand jury returned an indictment against Banks on Jan. 20, 2021. Under federal statutes, Banks faces up to 10 years in federal prison. The maximum statutory sentence prescribed by Congress is provided here for information purposes, as the sentencing will be determined by the court based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. A sentencing hearing will be scheduled after the completion of a presentence investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.
The CARES Act is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020, designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act authorized over $2 trillion in relief programs, including approximately $560 billion for benefits to individuals. An estimated $300 billion of that total was allocated for EIPs.
This case is being investigated by the U.S. Secret Service and the Cass County Sheriff’s Office and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Noble.