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U.S. Attorney uncovers Rental Assistance fraud scheme as program ends in Mississippi

Governor Reeves says the news is proof that Mississippi made the right call to end RAMP.

The United States Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi has made public the discovery of a Rental Assistance for Mississippians Program (RAMP) fraud scheme by a Clarksdale resident.

According to a release issued Thursday morning, a judgment was entered against Sylnanceia Saffold, 30, of Clarksdale in connection with a scheme to defraud the United States of more than $81,505 in RAMP funds distributed by the Mississippi Home Corporation (MHC) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Court documents note how Saffold devised a scheme to defraud and to obtain RAMP funds by filing false and fraudulent rental assistance applications with MHC as part of the CARES Act.

Saffold has admitted to falsely claiming to be the landlord of 12 individuals to obtain backrent and future rental assistance for individuals affected by the COVID pandemic.  Saffold also attempted to obtain funds on behalf of 9 others, but the fraud was detected by MHC fraud control personnel before the funds were distributed.

“The CARES Act programs, particularly the RAMP program, were intended to help families struggling to maintain their housing because of the pandemic. Unfortunately, far too many individuals like the defendant abused these programs for their own personal benefit,” stated United States Attorney Clay Joyner.  “Our office continues to prosecute violations of any CARES Act program —PPP, EIDL, RAMP, Employee Retention Credits, and others—in an effort to recover as many stolen taxpayer dollars as possible.”

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves announced two weeks ago that he was ending the RAMP program. Since then, various media outlets have led with articles critical of the Governor’s decision, painting him as uncaring.

However, Reeves says the fraud news from the U.S. Attorney is proof that he made the right call to end RAMP.

“Today’s announcement is more proof that Mississippi made the right call by ending RAMP,” said Governor Reeves. “Not only did this program run astray of its original intent, but we saw an increasing number of potentially fraudulent applications. While some Democrat politicians lambasted our decision, the discovery of this fraud scheme further justifies terminating the program.”

Saffold entered a civil consent judgment for actual damages plus penalties in the total amount of $101,311.50 before U.S. District Judge Sharion Aycock last week.

“We will continue to work with our State and Federal partners to make sure emergency assistance gets into the hands of the people that need it for safe, decent, affordable housing.  I’m proud of our agency’s efforts to stamp out fraud and protect the integrity of our programs.” said MHC Executive Director Scott Spivey.

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