Fort Stewart soldier sentenced to more than 3 years in prison for coronavirus, student loan fraud
Stars and Stripes January 11, 2023
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ATLANTA — A soldier based at Fort Stewart, Ga., convicted of stealing millions of dollars of federal money from student loan and coronavirus relief programs will spend some 3½ years in prison, the Justice Department announced Monday.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 Dara Buck was sentenced to 42 months in federal prison Jan. 5 by U.S. District Court Judge R. Stan Baker after she pleaded guilty last year in the multipart scheme that bilked the U.S. government out of at least $4.5 million. Buck, 39, pleaded guilty July 14 to charges including conspiracy to commit a crime against the U.S. government.
Baker also ordered Buck to pay restitution of almost $3.7 million in the case and serve three years of supervised release after her prison term is completed.
Prosecutors described Buck’s crimes as “a prolific fraud scheme” in announcing her guilty plea in July. They said she admitted to submitting more than 150 fraudulent applications for small business relief during the coronavirus pandemic via the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act’s Paycheck Protection Program, known as PPP.
Prosecutors charged Buck had received some $3.5 million through fraudulent PPP applications. She admitted to sharing some of those funds with other conspirators, prosecutors said. They did not identify others involved in Buck’s scheme.
Buck also admitted she falsely submitted Department of Veterans Affairs certifications for those deemed totally and permanently disabled to the Department of Education, resulting in her securing more than one dozen student loans worth more than $1 million for herself and other conspirators, prosecutors said.
“While serving in the U.S. Army, Dara Buck engaged in a massive scheme to defraud the taxpayers of the nation she was sworn to serve,” U.S. Attorney Davis H. Estes wrote in the July statement. “With our law enforcement partners, we are committed to identifying and holding accountable those who defraud COVID-19 relief programs to feed their self-serving greed.”