Prosecutors say a convicted felon wrongly received $25,000 in COVID relief funds from government

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Posted at 11:32 AM, Feb 11, 2021

HAMPTON, Va. - A convicted felon was given $25,000 in COVID-19 relief funds from the United States Treasury Department that federal authorities say he wasn’t entitled to.

28-year-old Brenden Jefferson of Hampton is accused of applying for a COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan back in June, claiming he ran a business out of his house in Hampton. The program, created through the CARES Act, aimed to help small businesses get through the pandemic.

Federal documents state that Jefferson claimed to run a legal services business with seven employees that he said he started back on January 24, 2017.

Documents go on to say that Jefferson allegedly did not register the business with the Virginia State Corporation Commission.

Records indicated that based on the loan application, Jefferson was given two checks – a loan for $18,000 and a grant for $7,000.

“Jefferson falsely claimed that his business had received $50,000 in gross revenue in the twelve months preceding January 31, 2020,” the records read.

On the application, federal prosecutors allege that he denied having a criminal past when, “Jefferson was in the middle of serving two terms of court-supervised probation for state felony convictions from the Cities of Portsmouth and Chesapeake, Virginia.”

The Virginia Circuit Court website indicates that Jefferson pleaded guilty to grand larceny and breaking and entering back in 2013.

The indictment states that Jefferson is accused of withdrawing more than $11,000 of the $25,000 given to him by the government between June 26, 2020 to July 8, 2020.

The government transferred the money to his BayPort Credit Union account, but the account was frozen due to suspected fraud on July 8, 2020 when it had about $13,800 left in it.

Records allege that he said the money was for his business Exclusive Cuts in Chesapeake.

“On or about the evening of July 8, 2020, Jefferson sent the Fraud Department at BayPort Federal Credit Union an email with the subject line, ‘Receipt’. It contained no other text, but included an image of a ‘Municipal Business Fee Receipt’ from the City of Portsmouth, Virginia, for a business, ‘Exclusive Cuts and Styles.’ The owner/officer was listed as ‘Brenden Jefferson’," according to the federal documents.

News 3 tracked down the real owner of the the barbershop - Robert Jones. He said he was notified by the bank and by law enforcement that someone was trying to use the name of his business to verify COVID relief loan money.

Jones said he has worked hard to keep his doors open over the past 16 years. He said the pandemic hit his business hard and he was forced to shut his doors for a few month which hurt his family's source of income.

He said he was disappointment and disheartened that this happened. He said he has never received any financial assistance and said when he tried to get COVID relief money was told it had all run out.

Prosecutors allege that on July 9, Jefferson called the fraud department at BayPort Credit Union and reported that he was a victim of fraud after losing his wallet.

He allegedly said someone must have applied for a loan in his name, but admitted to withdrawing and spending the proceeds.

Jefferson is currently being held in the Western Tidewater Regional Jail and facing charges of bank fraud, wire fraud, theft of government property and making false statements to the Small Business Administration.

We reached out to his public defender but have not heard back.