SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/KMSS) – A Bossier City beauty school owner faces up to five years in prison after pleading guilty to making false statements to a federal agency and using CARES Act money meant to keep her business afloat during the coronavirus pandemic for personal use instead.
The United States Attorney’s Office says 41-year-old Janola Massaquoi of Shreveport fraudulently applied for and secured a $500,000 Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EDIL) and a $178,750 loan through the Paycheck Protection Plan in the name of her LLC, Jane Elizabeth Education Group.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Massaquoi served as president of the beauty career training company founded in 2018. That company is listed in business filings with the State of Louisiana with an address in the Heart O’ Bossier shopping center on Old Minden Road that is the location of a Pat Goins Beauty School. The doors at that location were locked on Friday, and a woman who answered the door declined to comment.
Federal prosecutors say Massaquoi electronically submitted a Loan Authorization and Agreement to the SBA in April 2020 as part of the EIDL process. The certification of that document was an agreement that JEEG “will not without the prior written consent of SBA, make any distribution of Borrower’s assets, or give any preferential treatment, make any advance, directly or indirectly, by way of loan, gift, bonus, or otherwise to any owner or partner.”
Massaquoi also certified that the loan funds would be used solely as working capital for JEEG.
According to evidence presented in court, Massaquoi did not use the funds as working capital for JEEG. Instead, she transferred funds from the company account to her personal account. The money was used for a variety of personal expenses including a down payment on a house and mortgage payments.
It was also revealed that Massaquoi withdrew more than $30,000 in cash, transferred over $50,000 to friends and family members, and used about $83,000 to fund her personal investment and retirement accounts. In total, federal prosecutors say Massaquoi used $250,000 of the EIDL funds for personal use.
“This defendant took advantage of taxpayer dollars at one of the most vulnerable times in American history,” U.S. Attorney Brandon B. Brown said in a statement released Thursday. “Over the last few years, small businesses have struggled to survive during the pandemic. Massaquoi exploited an opportunity given by the government to provide legitimate financial assistance to said businesses. Individuals who commit such fraud will be investigated and ultimately prosecuted. We will continue to work with our federal partners who have allocated their investigative resources toward combating this type of fraud.”
In addition to prison time, Massaquoi faces up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentencing is set for January 11, 2023.
The U.S. Attorney’s office says anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.