The Columbus Dispatch
Woman gets probation for coronavirus relief fraud
Despite federal prosecutors urging prison time, a Columbus woman has been sentenced to five years probation, including six months home confinement, 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 fine 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 filings, federal prosecutors had sought a 21-month prison term for Jenison, plus fines and restitution, emphasizing the seriousness of the offense.
“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 suffer a lesser loss of liberty," prosecutors wrote. "A probationary sentence or a sentence of home confinement 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 financing, 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 filing 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 identification 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 officials seized and and recovered more than $58,000 of the funds Jenison fraudulently received.