St. Albans lawyer charged with using COVID-19 relief funds to pay off gambling debts: DA

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A St. Albans attorney has been charged with bilking federal agencies out of more than a quarter of a million dollars in COVID-19 relief funds, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.

Jamie Burke, 59, of Leslie Road, was arraigned Thursday, Dec. 16, before Queens Criminal Court Judge Denise Johnson on a complaint charging her with two counts of grand larceny and one count of offering a false instrument for filing for allegedly lying on the Federal Paycheck Protection Payment and Small Business Administration’s loan applications to acquire funds that were intended to help business owners pay employees during the pandemic.

“Ms. Burke took advantage of her knowledge and legal know-how to bilk the U.S. Government and steal funds earmarked for struggling businesses during the height of the pandemic,” U.S. Postal Inspector in Charge Philip R. Bartlett said. “Her actions are reprehensible and disgraceful for a member of the New York Bar.”

According to the charges, on Aug. 17, 2020, Burke signed a PPP loan application indicating that she was the sole owner of Rojo Realty in St. Albans. She is alleged to have stated on the loan application that she had 10 employees with a monthly payroll of $55,000. Her loan submission was approved and on Aug. 19, a check for $137,500 was deposited in her business account held at Capital One Bank.

Katz said the defendant also made an earlier request for a loan from the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster program on Aug. 9, 2020. On that application, Burke allegedly stated the realty company had gross revenue totaling $890,500 for the previous 12 months and claimed to have 12 employees. On August 11, 2020, a check from SBA totaling $149,900 was deposited into the same business account at Capital One Bank.

According to the charges, Burke received a total of $287,400 in loans.

The applications she submitted specifically stipulated that the borrowed funds had to be used for the business operation, worker retention, payroll and/or to make mortgage, lease and utility payments for the company. However, records allegedly show that Burke used most of the funds for personal expenses including spending $80,000 placing bets at gambling establishments.

“This defendant is a member of the bar and swore an oath to uphold the law. Sadly, she now stands accused of swindling more than $280,000 in PPP and SBA loans to line her own pockets,” Katz said. “These programs were created to help struggling business owners stay afloat and their workers employed during these unprecedented times. This defendant now faces very serious charges for her alleged actions. I want to thank my law enforcement counterparts for their efforts in this case.”

Judge Johnson ordered the defendant to return to court on February 9. If convicted, Burke faces up to 15 years in prison.

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