Last year, Jamie Burke seemed to be one of the tens of thousands of New Yorkers desperate for COVID relief money. She owns a small real estate company, Rojo Realty, in St. Albans, out on the suburban edge of Queens, and said on a federal Paycheck Protection Program application that she needed help to make the monthly payroll of $55,000 for her ten employees. It sounded like just the kind of situation that PPP loans were designed for: a small business that needed a little help to stay afloat. Burke’s application was approved, and she was given $137,000. But Burke didn’t pay any salaries, according to the Queens District Attorney. In fact, judging by the company’s single-page website that offers little information about the company and nothing about those who work there, Burke might not have any employees — or any business — at all. A woman who picked up at the number listed on Rojo’s spare website (active listings: zero) insisted that it was the wrong number and that they have nothing to do with the company; instead of an office building for the firm’s employees to work out of, the address listed on the loan application is for a tudor-style red brick house.
On Wednesday, the 59-year-old became the latest New Yorker to be slapped with criminal charges — in her case, grand larceny and filing false paperwork — for allegedly bilking COVID relief funds. But Burke didn’t just try to juice the PPP program — she also allegedly used Rojo Realty to get another $150,000 loan through the city’s Small Business Administration. In that application, she said that the company had a dozen employees, and claimed the “current economic uncertainty” made the loan request necessary to keep the business going. Burke even offered that in the previous 12 months Rojo had earned $890,500, though the company’s website doesn’t list a single closed deal. According to the Queens DA, Burke allegedly gambled most of the money away at casinos in New York and New Jersey.
Investigators reviewed Burke’s bank records and say her statements show that not only did she fail to spend that money on supporting her supposed employees and business, but $80,000 of the $287,000 in loans was spent placing bets. (Burke’s lawyer had no comment.) She certified that the information she provided in loan applications is “true and accurate,” and if false could be punishable anywhere from 5 to 30 years in prison. But Queens prosecutors say Burke likely faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted.