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Business Observer Monday, Jan. 10, 2022 1 week ago

Woman faces decades in prison for defrauding bank for nearly $600K in PPP funds

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52-year-old woman pleads guilty to falsifying loan papers and inventing fake businesses to cash in on COVID relief
by: Louis Llovio Commercial Real Estate Editor

TAMPA — A Temple Terrace woman is facing 30 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine after pleading guilty to bank fraud involving PPP loans.

According to prosecutors, 52-year old Bridgitte Keim submitted false applications and documentation in order to obtain federal Paycheck Protection Program loans and recruited family members and friends to provide their information in exchange for “free COVID money.”

In all, she is accused of bilking nearly $600,000 from the U.S. Small Business Administration and an unnamed bank.

Keim also faces five years of probation when released from prison. And, as part of the guilty plea, she’s agreed to forfeit assets obtained as a result of the fraud.

According to the plea agreement, from early 2021 through July 2021 Keim provided fraudulent loan applications and false supporting documents to the unnamed bank in order to obtain PPP loans.

Keim reached out to family and friends, telling them she would prepare all the paperwork to help them obtain loans “knowing full well that the vast majority of the applicants did not have existing businesses,” according to the agreement.

With this in mind, she created fictitious businesses and email addresses. The email addresses were used to fool loan officers into thinking they were communicating with an actual prospective borrower.

Keim prepared applications on behalf of her friends and family containing “false, fraudulent and misleading statements to qualify the individuals she recruited,” according to the agreement. She then texted the people she’d recruited to share the names of the businesses, the false financial information and the fake email addresses “so that these individuals could answer any questions from bank employees about the loan applications.”

The agreement details how the scheme worked by using the example of relative identified as G.H. recruited at a family meeting.

Keim told G.H. and the others at the meeting she would handle all the necessary paperwork in return for half whatever they qualified for. She then collected their names, dates of births, drivers’ licenses and social security numbers.

In early March, she submitted a loan application in G.H.’s name that included a fictitious business name and number of employees as well as falsified business income. The application said the money would be used for payroll.

G.H. was approved and received a loan for $20,833. Of that, $7,500 went into Keim’s personal account, authorities contended. 

In all, the fraud caused the bank and SBA at least $588,693.14 in losses.

Neither court papers nor a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice say if Keim’s family members are being investigated. A department spokesman did not respond to an email about the fate of family members.

Magistrate Judge Julie S. Sneed accepted Keim’s plea Jan. 5 during a video hearing. A sentencing date has not been set.

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