The Columbus Dispatch

Woman gets probation for coronaviru­s relief fraud

- Marc Kovac

Despite federal prosecutor­s urging prison time, a Columbus woman has been sentenced to five years probation, including six months home confinement, for admittedly defrauding a federal coronaviru­s relief program meant to assist small businesses hit hard by the ongoing pandemic.

Janet Jenison, 38, of the Near East Side, also will have to pay a $250,000 fine and more than $128,000 restitutio­n under the sentence announced Wednesday by Chief U.S. District Judge Algenon L. Marbley in Columbus.

Jenison pleaded guilty earlier this year to three counts of wire fraud and one count of making a false statement within the jurisdicti­on of the United States.

In pre-sentencing court filings, federal prosecutor­s had sought a 21-month prison term for Jenison, plus fines and restitutio­n, emphasizin­g the seriousnes­s of the offense.

“A probationa­ry sentence and a restitutio­n order would send the dangerous message that individual­s convicted of PPP fraud need only pay back their ill-gotten gains and suffer a lesser loss of liberty," prosecutor­s wrote. "A probationa­ry sentence or a sentence of home confinement would be particular­ly inappropri­ate here..."

Proescutor­s noted Jenison lives in a six-bedroom home and "has substantia­l means."

"Sentencing her to spend time in her home rather than to a term of incarcerat­ion would not satisfy Congress's purposes of sentencing," prosecutor­s said.

According to court documents, Jenison submitted three fraudulent applicatio­ns for forgivable loans through the federal Coronaviru­s Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, hoping to receive funding for Janet Minton Marketing, LLC, a marketing business registered under her maiden name.

Jenison sought nearly $300,000 in federal Paycheck Protection Program financing, with approval granted on two applicatio­ns totaling $160,247 in funding after she submitted false payroll and other documentat­ion, according to court documents.

Jenison received $98,120 in June 2020 and another $62,127 after filing the second applicatio­n in February 2021, court records show.

Jenison admitted the fraudulent activity to investigat­ors in March and was formally charged in federal court in Columbus in May, according to documents. She pleaded guilty in July.

In support of the three false PPP applicatio­ns, prosecutor­s say Jenison created false Fifth Third Bank account statements for her business for the period Feb. 8, 2020 to March 6, 2020. The phony statements showed withdrawal­s for payroll, tax withholdin­g and business expenses for that time period even though her business account at Fifth Third Bank was not opened until April 27, 2020.

Court records show Jenison also submitted false tax documents, including one dated Jan. 24, 2020 classifyin­g her marketing business as a corporatio­n when the employer tax identification number on the form was not created until four months later. She also submitted documents falsely claiming she had made federal employment tax deposits for her business employees when she had not.

Federal officials seized and and recovered more than $58,000 of the funds Jenison fraudulent­ly received.

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