Maplewood woman pleads guilty to wire fraud in $2.4M COVID relief scheme

A Maplewood woman has pleaded guilty to defrauding Minnesota’s and several other states’ jobs departments through COVID-19 relief claims.

Thursday, 35-year-old Takara Hughes pleaded guilty in federal court to wire fraud.

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The U.S. Attorney’s Office says Hughes fraudulently applied for more than $2,485,409 in pandemic-related funds between June 2020 and July 2021 through Minnesota, California and other state and federal programs.

While she was living in Minnesota, prosecutors say Hughes claimed to be living in San Diego and working as a hairstylist. The attorney’s office says Hughes also applied for benefits in Louisiana, Washington and Minnesota, and applied for Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) small business loans using false revenue figures and tax records.

Additionally, prosecutors say Hughes charged at least 40 other people around $3,000 to fraudulently get pandemic-related money on their behalf and submitted at least 30 other false applications for small businesses. As a result, several state and federal programs paid ta least $1.25 million to her and others in pandemic-related benefits.

Her sentencing date will be scheduled at a later time.