The COVID-19 pandemic has caused an unprecedented level of economic disruption, leading to widespread unemployment and financial hardship. Unfortunately, some individuals have taken advantage of these difficult circumstances for their own gain. One such case is that of Cecilia Aquino, a 32-year-old woman from Fresno who has been sentenced to over six years in prison for committing COVID-19 relief fraud.
According to court records, Aquino submitted over $300,000 in fraudulent unemployment insurance claims and Small Business Administration (SBA) loan applications in seven states using stolen identities. Her claims and applications contained various misrepresentations, including that the named individuals worked as strippers and owned interior design businesses and lost money because of the pandemic.
The severity of Aquino’s actions is evident in her prison sentence, which was handed down by U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert. However, this case also highlights the importance of the agencies and individuals who worked tirelessly to uncover and prosecute the fraud. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the SBA Office of Inspector General, the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General, and the Clovis Police Department all played a role in bringing Aquino to justice.