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Colorado businesswoman found guilty of defrauding government of nearly half million dollars

A woman accused of filing false documents for federal COVID support for her online businesses -- and of receiving almost a half million dollars before federal authorities cut her off -- was recently convicted on all charges by a Denver jury.

Shambrica Washington, 39, was found guilty on all 31 counts of wire fraud, bank fraud, money laundering, and false claims. 

The jury reached its verdict on June 28, the fourth day of what was scheduled to be a five-day trial in federal court.

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According to federal prosecutors, Washington was the owner of Tiny Toes and Tiaras, an online luxury baby apparel boutique, and TrueLove's Daughters, a non-profit focused on female empowerment. Between March and July 2020, Washington obtained loans from the Small Business Administration for two Economic Injury Disaster Loans and from JPMorgan Chase for two PPP loans for a total of $485,749.00. The applications for the loans contained false information about how many people were employed by her businesses and the businesses' wages, revenues, and costs of operation, according to prosecutors.

Additionally, prosecutors claimed Washington used the illegally obtained money to purchase a car and a custom-built home, pay for elective surgery, and pay credit card debt and other bills. 

Washington also applied for millions of dollars in additional loans, grants, and tax credits which were not granted, according to prosecutors. These included a $6 million SBA grant intended for shuttered concert venues.  

Shambrica Washington in a profile photo on several of her social media accounts, left, and her booking photo following her arrest in 2019 for identity theft.  LinkedIn and YouTube/El Paso County Sheriff's Office

Washington and her husband Jean Victor Damus lived in Fountain at the time of the infractions. They moved to Allen, Texas, in the fall of 2020. There, prosecutors claimed, Washington continued to file false information for federal COVID relief funds on behalf of at least one other company also based on high-end children's fashion.

The couple sold their Fountain home for $420,000 but only needed a loan of less than $24,000 to complete the purchase of the $1,140,000 (assessed value) home in Texas, according to a search of online public records.

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A federal indictment was first filed against the couple in June 2022. Victor Damus reached a plea deal with prosecutors a year later and was sentenced last November on a single count of False Claims to the Internal Revenue Service. He received a sentence of three years of supervised probation. 

Washington, meanwhile, fought the accusations. Very publicly, in some cases. In the lead-up to the trial, an X account operated by a Shaye Damus of Colorado Springs railed on local, state and federal authorities: "KKK country N Colorado. Corruption stemming from local law enforcement N El Paso County all the way 2 the DOJ N FBI. When will it end," was posted on March 7, 2023. "When will black people be free in this country?"

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Federal authorities claimed Washington failed to list her criminal record on at least one application for federal funds. Washington pleaded guilty to identity theft in El Paso County court in June 2020 - during the time she was allegedly filling out falsified federal applications. She was given a two-year deferred sentence in the county case along with 100 hours of community service. That county case has since been re-opened, however. Washington is scheduled to appear in a review hearing Thursday.

She faces a judge for the federal fraud sentencing in late September.

IRS Criminal Investigation and the FBI Denver Field Office conducted the federal investigation.  

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