Life of luxury: Oakland woman arrested for over $1M in pandemic relief fraud

OAKLAND (KRON) – An Oakland woman was arrested Friday after prosecutors say she engaged in bank fraud that took advantage of coronavirus pandemic relief funds, according to the Department of Justice.

Christina Burden, 31, applied for over $4.5 million in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL) using four shell companies and nine different applications between April and June of 2020.

The four entities had recently been created by Burden, according to prosecutors, and do not appear to engage in any legitimate business nor to have any employees.

Burden falsely claimed that each business was in operation before February 15, 2020, and her businesses had up to 89 employees and monthly payroll expenses of over $700,000.

“Overall, Burden collected over $1 million and spent it on expensive cars, travel, hotels, boat rentals, private jets, and luxury items from Louis Vuitton and Neiman Marcus, taking advantage of relief meant to go toward struggling businesses.”

A more detailed expense report shows that she spent the following:

  • $184,000 on airfare, private jet travel, and hotels
  • $124,000 on luxury purchases from Louis Vuitton and Neiman Marcus as well as purchases from Nordstrom, the San Francisco Giants Dugout Store, Sunglass Hut, Tumi, and Wayfair
  • $16,000 on boat and car rentals
  • $14,000 on various restaurant and entertainment expenses, among other purchases

According to the law passed last March as part of the CARES Act, PPP loan proceeds must be used by business on certain permissible business expenses, including payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities.

Similarly, the EIDL Program provides low-interest non-forgivable loans to small businesses, among others, in regions affected by disasters. 

In March 2020 Donald Trump extended the availability of EIDL funds to all states and territories due to the magnitude and severity of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The Paycheck Protection Program provides a financial lifeline to needy businesses and their employees,” said United States Attorney David L. Anderson.

“Christina Burden allegedly used fraudulently obtained funds from the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan program to unjustly enrich herself,” said Michael Daniels, Acting Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation’s Oakland Field Office.

Burden was arrested Friday morning in Austin, Texas and faces up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine if convicted.

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