A United States Army soldier stationed at Fort Stewart awaits sentencing after admitting she led a “prolific fraud scheme” in which she and others illegally raked in millions of dollars from COVID-19 relief programs and federal student loan forgiveness.
Dara Buck, a/k/a Dara Butler, 39, of Ladson, S.C., a U.S. Army Chief Warrant Officer 2 stationed at Fort Stewart, pled guilty to an information charging her with Conspiracy to Commit an Offense Against the United States, said David H. Estes, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. The guilty plea subjects Buck to a sentence of up to five years in prison and substantial financial penalties and restitution, followed by up to three years of supervised release after completion of any prison term. There is no parole in the federal system.
As spelled out in the Information and plea agreement, from August 2017 through May 2021, Buck led a conspiracy to fraudulently obtain funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), and to secure the fraudulent discharge of federal student loans using falsified disability claims.
Altogether, Buck admitted submitting more than 150 fraudulent PPP loan applications to the Small Business Administrating for herself and others in the conspiracy, resulting in more than $3.5 million in fraudulent disbursements from banks to members of the conspiracy. Buck directly received fraudulently obtained PPP funding, or was paid by conspirators for submitting their fraudulent applications.
In addition, conspirators paid Buck to submit falsified U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs certifications for total and permanent disability to the U.S. Department of Education in order to fraudulently secure the discharge of more than a dozen student loans totaling more than $1 million.
Sentencing in the case will be held before U.S. District Court Judge R. Stan Baker after completion of a pre-sentencing investigation by the U.S. Probation Office.
The case is being investigated by the Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General; the Defense Criminal Investigative Service; U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General; the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General; and, the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration; and prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan A. Porter and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Patrick J. Schwedler.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.