Missouri woman pleads guilty for fraudulent attempts to get $1.6M in pandemic loans

(The Center Square) – A Missouri woman admitted she attempted to fraudulently acquire more than $1.6 million in federal pandemic loans, according to information from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Eastern District of Missouri.

Dearika Binion, 36, of O’Fallon, pleaded guilty to three counts of bank fraud in U.S. District Court and was successful in obtaining two COVID-19 loans worth $75,600. Each bank fraud charge is punishable by up to 30 years in prison, a $1 million fine, or both prison and a fine. She is scheduled to be sentenced on July 10.

Binion admitted submitting a false and fraudulent application in April 2020 for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan from the Small Business Administration for Domi More, a company she registered in 2014. The application inflated gross revenues, the number of employees and operating costs of the company.

The SBA approved the loan and transferred $22,000 to an account held by Binion on June 17, 2020, and she withdrew $6,000 in cash that day. She withdrew $13,000 the next day, according to court documents.

Binion submitted another fraudulent application on July 8, 2020, on behalf of another company. In addition to submitting false information about business costs, the number of employees and gross revenues, she stated she neither submitted nor previously received any compensation for disaster losses.

Binion’s company received $53,600 on Aug. 3, 2020, and court records showed she spent $45,244 on retail purchases and payments toward previous retail purchases. A Chase credit card bill was paid $5,181 from the account and $2,235 was transferred to others using a digital app.

Binion submitted another fraudulent loan application on July 20, 2020, for $59,500 for Bella Skin Spa LLC, but it wasn’t approved. On Sept. 23, 2020, she submitted another fraudulent application for $264,800 for Bella Skin Spa, listing it as a sole proprietorship. Other information in the application was altered, but she wasn’t successful in obtaining the loan.

Binion tried a third time to get a loan. On Jan. 21, 2021, she filed a fictitious name with the Missouri secretary of state for Bella Skin Spa. She submitted a fraudulent application for $1.2 million on Feb. 4, 2021, but it wasn’t approved by the SBA.

Records obtained from the Missouri Department of Labor found all three companies Binion submitted loan applications for had no employees during 2020 or any records showing she had employees.

The FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and St. Louis County Police investigated the case.

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