Virginia salon owner pleads guilty to defrauding government

Dollars background
Posted at 8:51 PM, Jun 19, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-19 21:51:55-04

ABINGDON, Va. (AP) — A Virginia hair and nail salon operator has pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a scheme in which she filed for pandemic unemployment assistance despite reopening her shop after an executive order was lifted, a federal prosecutor said.

Mandi Dawn Hammond, 36, waived her right to be indicted and pleaded guilty this week to fraud in connection with a major disaster or emergency benefits program and mail fraud, said U.S. Attorney Christopher R. Kavanaugh in a news release.

After an executive order signed by the governor of Virginia in March 2020 closed all close-contact salons, Hammond closed her business in Richlands for about six weeks, court documents showed. Hammond filed for pandemic unemployment assistance the next month and was approved.

The executive order was lifted the next month and while Hammond reopened her business, prosecutors said she continued filing weekly certifications to receive pandemic unemployment benefits from May 2020 through August 2021. Court records indicate Hammond received at least $29,154 which she wasn’t entitled to.

Hammond is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 15. The charges carry a maximum of 30 years in prison.