A Knoxville entrepreneur is looking at up to 20 years in prison for lying numerous times as part of a scheme to be fraudulently awarded over $547,000 in emergency federal funds meant to help small businesses weather the COVID-19 pandemic.
Porsha Tims Bush of Knoxville, 41, admitted to the scheme as part of a plea agreement with federal prosecutors inked last week and also agreed to pay back the money she stole, according to court records. Bush pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud.
Bush “was the primary owner, or claimed to be the primary owner, of several small businesses that were purportedly incorporated in Tennessee, Mississippi, and Texas,” her plea agreement says.
Those businesses included Enlightenment Family Care Inc., which had the same mailing address as her former home in Knoxville. Another business, Enlightenment Industries, had the same address as her current home, also in Knoxville, records show.
Bush came up with her get-rich-quick scheme while millions of Americans were suffering financially from the unprecedented disruption to the economy caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
She targeted two federal programs meant to help small business owners and their employees weather the worst of the economic storm. For instance, she set her sights on the $649 billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and its forgivable loans that allowed small businesses to continue paying their employees, rent, utilities and other essential expenses. She also aimed at the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, which gave low-interest loans to those affected by natural disasters.
According to federal authorities, Bush’s scam ran from March 30, 2020 through the end of June 2020.
“It was the purpose and object of the scheme for defendant to unjustly enrich herself and others by obtaining EIDL and PPP loan proceeds under false and misleading pretenses, including by making false statements about the number of individuals her company employed, gross revenues, payroll taxes, her identity, and the intended use of the loan proceeds,” the agreement says.
Bush submitted loan paperwork on ten separate occasions in which she lied about virtually every relevant aspect of her alleged business operations. The actual or intended loan amounts totaled $547,286, Bush admitted.
Court records don’t show when or how Bush came to the attention of federal law enforcement authorities.
Last week, Bush’s case suddenly showed up on the docket of U.S. District Court in Knoxville. She waived a review of her case by a federal grand jury and instead agreed to plead guilty to a one-county information charging her with wire fraud.
A sentencing hearing will be scheduled for a later date, at which time a U.S. District Court judge will determine exactly how much time she’ll have to spend behind bars and what her restitution will be.
Assistant U.S. Attorney William A. Roach Jr. is prosecuting the case. Bush is represented by defense attorneys Ashlee McFarlane and Ashley Kaper.
J.J. Stambaugh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Published on June 15, 2021.