An Atlanta attorney, who purchased a Rolls-Royce and other lavish items with COVID relief funds she allegedly obtained through fraudulent means, was on Tuesday convicted in connection with the crime.
According to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the convicted woman, Shelitha Robertson, previously worked as a lawyer and police officer for the city. Authorities said she received over $7 million from the federal government after she fraudulently applied for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
Robertson’s conviction came after a jury found her guilty of three counts of wire fraud, one count of money laundering, and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Robertson, who had been out on bond after she entered a not-guilty plea when she was indicted in 2022, was taken into custody following Tuesday’s verdict.
Besides purchasing the Rolls-Royce with the funds she received, Robertson also bought a motorcycle, a $148,000 10-carat diamond ring, as well as other items. Prosecutors also said Robertson wired $50,000 of the PPP funding to her daughter and made a cash withdrawal of $25,000.
Robertson was accused of overstating the number of workers in her four businesses when she applied for the PPP loans. The Paycheck Protection Program was introduced by the federal government during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic to provide financial assistance to small businesses impacted by the crisis.
Robertson, however, claimed she did not overstate the number of employees in her companies and accused her former best friend and personal attorney, Chandra Norton, of applying for the PPP loans through fraudulent means. Norton, who was indicted in 2020, entered a guilty plea in a different case.
Norton, who pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, accepted a plea deal that involved working with the federal government to build a case against Robertson, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. But in the wake of her arrest, Robertson allegedly threatened Norton and another individual’s life, Federal prosecutor Ariel Glasner said. Robertson’s lawyer, however, argued that wasn’t the case.
Before their convictions, prosecutors said Robertson and Norton conspired to fraudulently apply for the PPP loans, adding that Robertson sent Norton $400,000 from the PPP funding.
Authorities said Robertson’s companies – Atlanta Custom Motors, MO Griggs Contracting, Tritan, and The Renee Group – were given the PPP loans. But The Renee Group, which had 13 employees, was the only functional company during that period, authorities said.
Prosecutors said the number of people employed in Robertson’s companies was stated as 427 in the PPP applications. The monthly payroll expenses were also stated as $2.8 million – though The Renee Group spent $762,674 for payroll in 2019. Prosecutors said the latter amount was a fragment of Robertson’s claim, per The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Robertson will remain detained until her sentencing on April 11.