A woman from Florida has allegedly spent a part of her $15,000 Covid-19 relief loan to settle old scores and hire a hit man to murder a woman who had dated her ex-boyfriend. The news was reported by The Miami Herald on Tuesday, citing a Miami-Dade police arrest warrant issued on February 9.
The suspect, identified as Jasmine Martinez, 33, received a loan as part of the US government’s Paycheck Protection Program on April 20, 2021, just two weeks before the murder of Le’Shonte Jones, 24, who was shot to death on her way home, the arrest warrant said.
Martinez also made withdrawals from her bank account amounting to more than $10,000 just days before the murder, the police added. Last week, law enforcement officers also arrested a man called Javon Carter, an ex-convict believed to be the hit man in this case. The police have found a video on his phone showing him counting “a large sum” of money just hours after the murder and saying: “just another day at the office.”
Carter was charged with first-degree murder and attempted murder of Le’Shonte Jones’ three-year-old daughter, who she was walking with at the time of the incident. The toddler was “grazed” by bullets during the attack, police said.
Law enforcement officials have also arrested Martinez and Romiel Robinson, a man she was in a relationship with, the Miami Herald reported, citing last week’s police warrants. Both have been charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder. The police believe that the killing of Jones was a culmination of a longtime rivalry between the two women.
Martinez’s lawyer, Fallon Zirpoli, has said in a statement that her client “has always denied any involvement in this tragedy since the first time law enforcement approached her last summer.” No other suspects in this case made any statements through their lawyers or otherwise.
A part of the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Paycheck Protection Program was designed as a low-interest private loan program established by the government to help businesses, self-employed workers, and nonprofit organizations continue paying certain costs, including salaries and wages, to their staff.
The government waived most vetting procedures usual for business loans. The scheme was then abused by scores of people, according to a study by the University of Texas at Austin published last August. The paper has said that there had been indications of fraud in some 1.8 million loans totaling $76 billion, or roughly 15% of all loans granted as part of the program.
In two high-profile cases dating back to July and August 2020, two men were charged with bank fraud after they used their $4 million and $1.6 million loans to buy luxury Lamborghini cars, among other things. In Martinez’s case, it is unclear if she had a business and how exactly she got the loan at all.