Ex-candidate in Georgia paid for pool with COVID charge: Federal government
In 2017, Olivia Ware promoted herself to community leader, entrepreneur and CEO while running for mayor of a city just outside of Atlanta.
Now the 61-year-old is accused of buying an in-ground swimming pool with money she allegedly scammed from a federal COVID-19 relief program.
Ware was indicted in federal court Tuesday with bank fraud and money launderingthe US District Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia said in a press release.
“Ware attempted to defraud the government with money intended to help small businesses affected by the pandemic to continue to operate and take care of their employees,” Special Agent in Charge Katrina W. Berger said in the communicated. “Instead of helping others through a difficult time like the money was intended, she used the money for personal gain.”
Federal Court documents were not immediately available Tuesday, and a request for comment sent to the nonprofit Ware was reportedly executed and her candidate email address went unanswered.
But according to the US attorney’s office, Ware was previously a candidate for mayor of Conyers – a city of about 16,000 inhabitants just east of Atlanta, US census records show. She was one of three candidates in the ballot and won 198 votes, or about 18.8%.
The winning candidate in 2017 obtained more than 52% of the votes, show Rockdale County election records.
Ware’s alleged fraud began last year, when prosecutors said she applied for a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program. A PPP loan is backed by the Small Business Administration and has been offered to small businesses struggling to stay afloat during the coronavirus pandemic.
Ware filed the claim on behalf of a company called “Let’s Talk About the Family LLC.” The company is listed as a non-profit organization with the Georgia Corporations division and was reportedly formed in 1994 with Ware as CEO.
It was last recorded in 2020, according to records.
The company’s website describes it as a non-profit that helps low-income families, and Ware is listed as CEO, Founder and Chairman of the Board.
In her request for coronavirus relief funds, Ware said she employed 54 people who “were paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in wages,” according to prosecutors. She subsequently received a PPP loan of more than $ 323,000, according to Tuesday’s press release.
“Praise be to God, I’m happy to speak,” Ware told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in September after receiving the funds.
But after some research, the newspaper found little was known about the alleged large-scale operation that Ware said she ran away. She did not explain the source of her business’s income, and two people who worked for her told Journal-Constitution that the business did not exist.
Ware also said she employed two dozen people – not 54, as her loan application indicated, the newspaper reported.
Homeland security investigators later discovered that Ware had not paid any employees a salary last year, prosecutors said.
Ware is accused of using the P3 loan she received to pay for an inground pool, furniture and home improvements. She also reportedly spent part of it to pay off the principal of her mortgage.
Prosecutors said Ware was indicted on Tuesday by criminal reports but was presumed innocent until proven guilty.