CRIME BLOTTER

Seattle woman sentenced after stealing COVID-19 funds for ‘lavish’ spending

Mar 14, 2024, 5:00 AM

Photo: Counting money...

Counting money. (Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

(Photo courtesy of KIRO 7)

A Seattle woman was sentenced to prison after stealing funds from the COVID-19 assistance program. Prosecutors said she used the money for shopping sprees, cars, and other “lavish” spending. Prosecutors said Walker took money that could have helped small businesses stay afloat during the pandemic.

Dani Walker, 62, stole nearly half a million dollars from the pandemic relief fund, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Tessa M Gorman.

On Wednesday, Walker was sentenced to 52 consecutive weekends in confinement. That translates to Walker spending 208 days in confinement. She will serve her time at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac. During the hearing, U.S. District Judge Lauren King elaborated on Walker’s “lavish expenditures.”

“This defendant took resources intended to help businesses struggling to stay afloat in the pandemic, and used them for a high-end car, luxury travel and shopping sprees and unsuccessful trading in cryptocurrency,” Gorman said. “Some businesses that needed loans did not get them, because Ms. Walker and others like her committed fraud on government programs.”

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According to Gorman, Walker was indicted on six counts of wire fraud in July 2022 and pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in August 2023. Prosecutors wanted a 21-month custodial sentence, while the United States Probation Office recommended a sentence of 12 months and one day.

Walker used the money to buy a Jaguar

Prosecutors said Walker used the money to buy a Jaguar and take a $34,000 luxury vacation in New York. She also went on a Louis Vuitton shopping spree and invested “unsuccessfully” in cryptocurrency.

Walker obtained the $473,082 in Paycheck Protection Program loans through the Small Business Administration. Essentially, Walker submitted applications for three different companies, but only one was actually in business and none of them had the employees she claimed.

Local businesses get necessary aid: Seattle Chinatown-International District sees boost in pandemic relief funds

“Walker stole close to a half million dollars in pandemic relief funds. These funds could and should have been provided to businesses that actually qualified for them so those business could pay their employees and other approved business expenses– i.e., to stay afloat during a historic crisis,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Jensen wrote in her sentencing memo.

The case was investigated by the Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jensen and Sok Jiang.

Julia Dallas is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read her stories here. Follow Julia on X, formerly known as Twitter, here and email her here.

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