Eastvale woman gets 6 months for fraud in COVID-19 loan for $491,310

An Eastvale businesswoman who obtained a $491,310 loan in the COVID-19 paycheck protection program by falsely claiming she had 24 employees when she actually had only one has been sentenced to prison, federal authorities said.

Cindi Denton, 63, was ordered on Oct. 8 to serve six months in prison, one year of home confinement and three years of supervised release. She must report to prison by Jan. 10.

Denton was also ordered to pay $377,884 in restitution and forfeit property that was not described in court documents.

Her attorney, Manuel Gonzalez Jr., argued in a court filing that Denton, a first-time offender, should receive no prison time and instead be sentenced to two years probation so she can care for special-needs children, ages 7 and 12, that she homeschools. Further, he said, Denton had had a stroke and is overweight and that sending her to prison could increase her risk of contracting COVID-19.

Denton had pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud on July 22 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

Denton, owner and director of Emerald Jade Solutions, admitted to receiving the loan for her company, a DOJ release said, after submitting falsified bank statements and payroll tax forms.

According to the criminal complaint written by IRS Special Agent Sarah Conlon, Denton paid $98,000 to a co-conspirator.

Denton was taped in a phone call with an unidentified person who was cooperating with the investigation saying that she had only one paid employee, said the complaint, which noted that Denton did not withhold any payroll taxes from employees in 2018, 2019 and 2020 despite claiming on the loan application that her company had a monthly payroll of $196,524. She formed the company in 2013.

Denton admitted to authorities that she sent a $150,000 wire to her personal checking account using the loan proceeds, the complaint said. She was also seen on video withdrawing thousands of dollars from a bank. She told the informant that she used some of the money to pay off credit cards and to buy a car, among other things, authorities said.

Such loans, if the money is spent under federal guidelines, does not have to be returned. They are to help struggling businesses get through the pandemic.

“It does not appear that any of the PPP loan (was) used for legitimate business expenses or payroll-related expenditures to any employee other than Denton herself,” Conlon wrote in the complaint.

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