11 suspects face felony charges after receiving illegal CARES Act funds, deputies say

Numerous suspected fraudulent applications were turned over to PCSO

Polk County CARES Act Arrests
Polk County CARES Act Arrests

POLK COUNTY, Fla. – Eleven people are behind bars after deputies say they obtained federal CARES Act money illegally.

According to Deputy County Manager Joe Halman, the county received around $126 million from the federal government for the CARES Act program. Around $53 million was set aside to assist individuals.

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“The Polk Cares program was designed to provide help to people in our community because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.

Deputies said at least nine of the suspects arrested were employed and/or did not have their hours reduced due to COVID-19, making them ineligible for CARES Act money.

Judd said the subjects took documents, forged signatures, inserted fake names and created a letter that would help them receive money from the program.

“Many of the suspects are already receiving government assistance, such as food stamps and unemployment,” deputies said.

According to the sheriff, the 11 suspects are facing a variety of fraud and theft charges, including felonies.


Below are the subjects and the charges they are facing:
Polk County CARES Act Subjects

Brittany Capers, 27, of Lakeland - Charged with obtaining property by fraud, grand theft and criminal use of personal ID. Capers was receiving unemployment benefits at the time of her arrest.

Ebony Chaney, 34, of Lake Wales - Charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, obtaining property by fraud, grand theft and cheating/gross fraud. Chaney was receiving food stamps at the time of her arrest.

Ermanne Henry, 43, of Lakeland - Charged with obtaining property by fraud, grand theft and criminal use of personal ID.

Mervin Suttle, 36, of Bartow - Charged with obtaining property by fraud, grand theft and criminal use of personal ID. Suttle was receiving food stamps and unemployment at the time of his arrest.

Patricia Taylor, 38, of Lakeland - Charged with obtaining property by fraud, grand theft and criminal use of personal ID. She was employed as an LPN at a nursing home.

Phyllis Tirado, 49, of Lake Wales - Charged with conspiracy to commit fraud, obtaining property by fraud and cheating/gross fraud. Tirado did not receive any money but provided a fraudulent document to an employee.

Takila McBurrows, 36, of Lake Wales - Charged with obtaining property by fraud, grand theft and criminal use of personal ID. McBurrows was receiving food stamps at the time of her arrest. She told deputies that she works as a para-educator.

Tashai Newman, 43, of Winter Haven - Charged with obtaining property by fraud, grand theft and criminal use of personal ID. Newman was receiving food stamps at the time of her arrest.

Derrick Dawsey, 50, of Lake Wales - Charged with obtaining property by fraud, grand theft and criminal use of personal ID.

Dominique Frasier, 36, of Lakeland - Charged with obtaining property by fraud, grand theft and criminal use of personal ID. Frasier was receiving food stamps at the time of her arrest. She was employed as a certified nursing assistant at a nursing home.

Lashunna Morris, 37, of Lake Wales - She recently turned herself in on charges of scheme to defraud, grand theft and criminal use of ID.


“There are people who needed the money the worst and didn’t get the money,” Judd explained. “Because these folks stole and created fraudulent acts to steal.”

”We will continue to investigate those who want to take advantage of programs designed to help those in need,” Judd said.