Columbus residents indicted for more than $2M in CARES Act fraud

Published 10:18 am Friday, June 17, 2022

A federal grand jury in Oxford, Mississippi returned an indictment on Wednesday charging Columbus, Mississippi residents Jabari Ogbanna Edwards and Antwann Richardson with fraud in connection with more than $2,000,000 in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) funds received by their defunct business North Atlantic Security.

According to court documents, Edwards, 49, and Richardson, 37, applied for and received PPP and EIDL loan funds shortly before and after their company, North Atlantic Security (NAS) ceased to do business.

Specifically, the indictment alleges that NAS received more than $500,000 in PPP funds approximately one month before it sold all its contracts and assets to American Sentry Security Services in March 2021. Despite ceasing to do business in March 2021, NAS applied for and received $1,850,000 in Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) modification funds in October and November 2021. 

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Rather than use the PPP and EIDL funds for permissible expenses, the indictment alleges that Edwards and Richardson laundered these funds through their other businesses, including J5 Solutions, Edwards Enterprises, J5 GBL, BH Properties, and The Bridge Group, and used these funds for a number of unauthorized expenses, including personal real estate transactions, political contributions, charitable donations, loan payments for vehicles, lump sum payments to friends, family, and employees of their other companies and the purchase of Court Square Towers in Columbus, Mississippi.

Edwards and Richardson are charged with Conspiracy to Commit Wire Fraud, Wire Fraud, and Money Laundering. Edwards also faces charges for Making a False Statement. The defendants appeared in court for their initial appearance on Thursday, June 16, 2022, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Roy Percy. If convicted, they face a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. A federal district judge would determine any sentence to be imposed after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The Office of Special Inspector General for Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) and the FBI  are investigating the case. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Philip Levy, Robert Mims, and Sam Wright are prosecuting the case.

An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.