OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — Former small business owner Jill Ford read a tear-filled apology letter before a federal judge Friday, but the court still moved forward with sentencing her to imprisonment.
Jill Ford, 31, pleaded guilty in January to bank fraud and money laundering related to a loan obtained through the Main Street Lending Program (MSLP), a lending facility established by the Federal Reserve Board and supported with funding authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).
The CARES Act provided more than $2 trillion in relief for individuals and businesses adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic. The CARES Act also authorized the Secretary of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve Board to create the MSLP to promote lending to small-and medium-sized businesses affected by the pandemic.
News 4 first investigated Jill Ford in the spring of 2021, shortly after she closed up shop on her boutique Oliver and Olivia.
Her northwest metro warehouse was still packed with product, and her employees claimed they were still waiting for their last paychecks.
“My wife was one of the employees that did not get paid. She was also one of the people that had their insurance terminated without notice. And actually it was terminated before they stopped taking money out of my wife’s paycheck. She went to the doctor a couple of times thinking she had insurance which did result in some fairly high bills,” Dustin Haney told KFOR on Friday.
He estimates he and his wife lost between $3,000 and $5,000.
“It’s not horrible. I mean, there were people a little worse off. And then my wife and I were fairly stable going into that collapse. We were able to kind of ride it out without that kind of price hurting us too much. I’m sure some of the other employees didn’t fare as well,” added Haney.
The In Your Corner team showed up to Ford’s home and asked for her side of the story in 2021.
“Does it really matter what I’m doing? Because here in the United States of America, you can stop one business and open another,” said Ford after calling neighborhood security guards on News 4.
Federal court documents show Ford misused pandemic relief funds meant to keep both her business and employees afloat to build an $800,000 home and put a down payment on a Cadillac.
Court records indicate Ford misused $252,143.35.
Nearly two years after a federal court case against Ford was filed in Oklahoma City, her fate was decided on Friday.
Bank fraud and money laundering could carry a maximum sentence of 40 years, but Ford was handed a 20 month concurrent term.
The prosecution argued that although Ford was a “law abiding citizen,” she “exploited the government” during a national emergency.
An attorney on behalf of the federal government described Ford as “selfish,” “greedy,” and a “business owner who got in over her head.”
Ford’s attorney, Patrick Quillian argued Ford should have received a zero month sentence with a five year supervision because she is the “primary bread winner” and cares for a child who has special needs.
Quillian told the court Ford learned her lesson and was living “much more humbly” in an apartment.
The judge explained how she took Quillian’s argument into consideration, but said Ford’s white collar crime was “egregious.”
After Ford made a public apology to the victims, her family, and the court, the judge not only handed her a 20 month concurrent sentence, but also mandated Ford work 100 hours of community service, have three years of supervision following her release from prison, and to pay $252,143.35 in restitution.
The judge did not require Ford pay her former employees what is owed and said she would leave that decision up to Ford.
Ford and Quillian did tell the court she intended on paying approximately $40,000 in total to those employees.
The judge also asked Quillian if Ford had a preference on her imprisonment location. They decided on a location in Oklahoma City.
The judge ordered Ford voluntarily self-surrender on January 2 by noon.
News 4 reached out to Quillian for a statement regarding Ford’s sentence. He initially agreed to providing one, but then declined.
“I would have liked to have seen no downward deviation from the sentencing guidelines. But I do believe the court system did its job and put out a justice verdict,” stated Haney.
Haney said he has no expectation of Ford paying his wife the money she is owed though.
“She has, on numerous occasions, resorted to crocodile tears to get her way. I think it was lip service to get a lighter sentence. If she proved me wrong, then I will gladly admit I was wrong and that she was a better, bigger person than I expected,” explained Haney.