ST. PAUL – Two women have been charged with engaging in fraud schemes to steal millions of dollars in COVID-19 relief funds.

According to court documents, beginning in June 2020,  39-year-old Tequisha Solomon of Las Vegas, and 35-year-old Takara Hughes of Maplewood, defrauded California’s Employment Development Department (EDD) and Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) and other state agencies, by submitting fraudulent claims and applications for unemployment benefits that were authorized to provide relief to the American workforce due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For example, while Solomon and Hughes lived in Nevada or Minnesota, they falsely claimed that they lived in Los Angeles or San Diego and worked as hairstylists in California. As a result, California’s EDD paid Solomon at least $37,000 and Hughes at least $46,000 in unemployment benefits.

According to court documents, Solomon and Hughes also fraudulently applied for Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) small business loans, falsely claiming that they owned cleaning service businesses. As part of their fraud scheme, Solomon and Hughes submitted numerous fraudulent claims on behalf of other people and charged a fee for submitting those claims.

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In total, as a direct result of the material falsehoods and omissions, Solomon caused the United States and multiple state agencies to pay out at least $4.1 million in fraudulent unemployment benefits and EIDL and PPP small business loan proceeds.

Hughes is responsible for at least $1.2 million in fraudulent benefits and loan proceeds.

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