ST. LOUIS – Three women who used to live in the St. Louis area are accused of committing pandemic loan fraud.

Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Missouri said Brianna L. Bell-Maple, 23, Jemyla A. Bell, 38, and Leiah A. Vaughn, 22, surrendered to authorities on Monday in Fresno, California, where they now live.

Bell-Maple, Bell, and Vaughn were each indicted on two counts of wire fraud. The indictments were handed down on March 27.

Prosecutors claim the women submitted 11 fraudulent applications for Paycheck Protection Program loans (PPP). The program was designed to help small businesses pay for and retain employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the indictment, the women claimed to run women’s clothing businesses at two addresses in St. Louis and one on Scott Air Force Base in Illinois. No such businesses existed. The women filed phony tax documents with the loan applications.

Bell-Maple, Bell, and Vaughn received a total of $229,163 in PPP loans, which they used for rent, shopping, dining, bills, travel, loan payments, pet store purchases, and vehicles, prosecutors claim.

Each count of wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.