Former MDE executive director indicted for bank fraud, making false statements related to PPP loan

Cerissa Neal
Cerissa Neal(WLBT)
Published: Jan. 27, 2022 at 12:32 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A former executive director within the Mississippi Department of Education has been indicted on felony charges again, this time for allegedly making false statements to obtain a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan.

In August, a federal grand jury indicted Cerissa Renfroe Neal on one count of making false accusations on a loan application, one count of making false accusations, and one count of bank fraud.

The indictments came less than a year after a federal grand jury charged Neal and three others for crimes Neal allegedly committed during her time with the Department of Education.

Under the new charges, she faces up to 65 years in prison. If convicted, she also faces an additional 10 years for committing the offenses while on release.

The grand jury handed down the indictments in August. Magistrate Judge Keith Ball unsealed the case on January 14.

According to court records, in January 2021, Neal allegedly made false statements to Trustmark National Bank to obtain the loan, and caused the bank to submit two forms to the Small Business Administration, with “each such form falsely indicating that she was not under indictment, and therefore... was eligible for loan approval.”

At the time, Neal was under an indictment stemming from her time at the Mississippi Department of Education.

The indictment also alleges that from at least April 2020 to June 30, 2021, Neal and accomplices continued to make misrepresentations to defraud Trustmark National Bank to “obtain money, funds, and other property owned by and under the custody and control of (the) said financial institution.”

Court records indicate she was “aided and abetted” by others who were known and unknown to the jury. No names of those aiding Neal were listed.

The indictment did not say how much Neal had allegedly applied for in PPP money or if she was approved. It also was not clear what company the loan was associated with.

The Mississippi Secretary of State’s website shows that Neal is associated with three businesses: 3G Chemical Solutions LLC, Garland Consulting Services LLC, and Traveling Teacher Exchange.

According to a PPP loan database compiled by ProPublica, Garland Consulting, an educational support services company in Madison, received $18,125 in PPP money.

A business is not eligible for PPP loans if 20 percent or more is owned by an individual who is currently incarcerated, on probation, on parole, or currently subject to indictment, the SBA’s website states.

The secretary of state’s website lists Neal as the manager and registered agent for Garland Consulting but does not show how much of the company she owns.

The first round of funds was awarded on April 27, 2020, according to PPP’s website. The full amount was used for payroll, the website indicates.

Neal, a former executive director within MDE, is facing a host of unrelated charges stemming from her time with the department. Neal served as executive director between 2013 and 2016. Investigators said she and others used bid-rigging, false quotes, altered purchase orders, and purchased orders at inflated prices so certain businesses could profit.

Neal was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, seven counts of wire fraud, one count of money laundering, and three counts of bribery.

No action has been taken in that case since October, according to the U.S. District Court’s website.

A trial date on the new charges has been set for March 7, 2022, before Judge Tom Lee.

Neal was granted a $10,000 bond on January 18.

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