Phoenix woman who used COVID PPP loans to buy cars gets 5 years for fraud

Nov 10, 2022, 12:30 PM
(Pexels Photo)...
(Pexels Photo)
(Pexels Photo)

PHOENIX — A Phoenix woman was recently sentenced to 5 years in federal prison for fraudulently obtaining Paycheck Protection Program loans meant to help businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic, authorities said.

Celestine Coletta Strong, 46, was accused of filing false application information and using the loans to buy luxury cars and other items, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Arizona said in a press release Wednesday.

In addition to the prison time, a judge on Oct. 31 ordered Strong to pay $327,448 in restitution and surrender two cars, a 2016 Mercedes-Benz E400 and 2018 Dodge Challenger.

She previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Prosecutors say Strong fraudulently received $400,000 in PPP loans, although she tried getting much more.

She was accused of using falsified employee information and bank statements to apply for 17 loans totaling more than $3.5 million.

Homeland Security Investigations led the investigation. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and the Small Business Administration Office of the Inspector General were also involved.

The PPP loan program was part of the CARES Act economic relief package signed by then-President Donald Trump in March 2020, when the COVID pandemic was in its early stages.

In May 2021, the Department of Justice established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force, a partnership with multiple agencies to combat pandemic-related fraud.

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News


Charles Barkley happy for Brittney Griner’s Russia release, feels for still-imprisoned Paul Whelan

Charles Barkley is happy fellow Valley basketball icon Brittney Griner was released from Russia in a prisoner swap, but feels for Paul Whelan.
1 day ago
(Twitter Photo/@MesaPD)...

Mesa police investigating homicide after man found killed in his boot repair shop

Mesa police are investigating the death of a man after he was found killed inside his boot repair business on Tuesday.
1 day ago
(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)...
Taylor Kinnerup

Arizona’s News Roundup: Griner released, TSMC ups state investment and more

Listen to a recap of the biggest Arizona news stories this week, including Brittney Griner's release and President Biden's visit to the state.
1 day ago
(Phoenix Police Department Photo)...

Silver Alert issued for 44-year-old woman with cognitive issues last seen in Phoenix

A Silver Alert was issued Thursday for a 44-year-old woman with a cognitive delay who was last seen in Phoenix on Sunday.
1 day ago
(Facebook Photo/Peoria Fire-Medical Department)...

West Valley elementary school children evaluated after becoming ill following field trip

Twenty elementary school students in Sun City grew ill on Thursday after returning from a field trip, authorities said.
1 day ago
(Pexels Photo)...

1 dead after argument leads to gunfire in downtown Phoenix

A man is dead after an argument escalated into gunfire in downtown Phoenix on Wednesday evening, authorities said.
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Phoenix woman who used COVID PPP loans to buy cars gets 5 years for fraud