Attorney General Ashley Moody News Release

July 1, 2022
Contact: Kylie Mason
Phone: (850) 245-0150

Attorney General Moody and FTC File Complaint to Shut Down COVID-19 Relief Scam Targeting Small Businesses

TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Attorney General Ashley Moody and the Federal Trade Commission are taking legal action to shut down a COVID-19 relief scam that targeted small businesses. In response to a joint complaint filed by Attorney General Moody and the FTC, a federal court in Florida issued a temporary restraining order and appointed a receiver against Florida-based Grant Bae and its owner, Traeshonna P. Graham. The defendants allegedly marketed a fictitious grant-writing service that falsely promised minority-owned small businesses easy access to guaranteed funding and COVID-19 economic relief.

Attorney General Ashley Moody said, “The defendants targeted small, minority-owned businesses with the promise they could help secure COVID-19 relief. Instead of obtaining the promised federal grant funds, the defendants took fees from struggling businesses and left them in even worse financial condition. I am pleased we have shut down this scam and we will continue to litigate this case in an effort to recover lost funds for those harmed.”

FTC Bureau of Consumer Protection Director Samuel Levine said, “These scammers targeted minority-owned businesses and misused public funds meant to support honest businesses during the pandemic. Working with our state partners and with new authority granted by Congress, we will continue to shut down frauds that prey on people during the pandemic.”

The complaint alleges that Graham and her company C Lee Enterprises, LLC, doing business as Grant Bae, violated the FTC Act, the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act, and the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act by targeting minority-owned small businesses with claims that customers could access millions of dollars in grant funding after paying for the defendants’ services.

According to the complaint, Graham and Grant Bae pitched false claims about the company’s services and Graham’s own grant-writing background on Facebook, Instagram and in the Clubhouse audio app. The complaint alleges that Grant Bae only distributed money to a handful of social media influencers and close associates.

In an effort to convince minority-owned businesses that Graham could secure grant funding, Graham allegedly deceived consumers about nearly every aspect of Grant Bae and lied about personal qualifications since at least October of 2020. The complaint alleges that these deceptions, which cost small businesses thousands of dollars, include:

The complaint also alleges that Graham relied on funds acquired through the federal COVID-19 Paycheck Protection Program to start Grant Bae. A month after its founding, the company received approval for a Paycheck Protection Program loan. Later that summer, Graham individually received approval for another PPP loan as an independent contractor. At times, the complaint alleges, Grant Bae said it would apply for COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loans on behalf of customers.

The joint complaint is filed in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida.

To view the joint complaint, click here.

To view the temporary restraining order, click here.