Ringleader pleads guilty in major King County rental assistance fraud case

Dec 11, 2023, 12:31 PM | Updated: 12:48 pm

rental assistance fraud...

A "For Rent" sign is posted on a building. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

(AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

The ringleader of a pandemic assistance fraud scheme in King County and across the country pleaded guilty to multiple federal charges in which the six associates attempted to steal more than $6.8 million.

Federal prosecutors call it one of the country’s most prolific rental assistance fraud cases, with the culprits facing a 26-count indictment in court in June.

The alleged ringleader, 29-year-old Paradise Williams, helped to create fake documents and guided the other defendants in how to commit fraud as landlords and tenants to claim rental assistance. Each accomplice is said to have received tens of thousands of dollars for each fake application, and at least 35 applications were submitted.

Six people, including Williams, allegedly posed as landlords and business owners, getting $3.3 million from fraudulent applications to various government programs.

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U.S. Attorney Nick Brown said most of the money was intended to help people in King County avoid eviction.

“The participants in this fraud were relentless in exploiting pandemic relief programs that were intended to assist small businesses and people who were vulnerable to eviction,” Brown said. “The need for the emergency rental assistance greatly outweighed the funds available, and we know that fraud schemes such as this one stole money that should have gone to those desperately in need.”

Williams and accomplices also allegedly filed 13 fake applications to the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans totaling approximately $253,000.

Two of the defendants were arrested in Phoenix, one was arrested in Houston, and three were arrested in Washington.

The indictment claims that the money illegally gained was used for luxury cars, designer clothes, jewelry, trips, and plastic surgery.

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The suspects are charged with dozens of counts of wire fraud and money laundering. Wire fraud in connection to a federal national disaster is punishable with up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine. Money laundering is punishable with up to 20 years in prison.

The five other conspirators, D’Arius Jackson, Tia Robinson, Rayvon Peterson, and David Martinez, had previously pleaded guilty to their participation in the scheme and will be sentenced in February.

The case is being investigated by the FBI. The two Washington-based defendants are being held in Federal custody.

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Ringleader pleads guilty in major King County rental assistance fraud case