Woman accused of stealing $1.9M in COVID relief by claiming ties to area pizza chain

Two Ohio women reportedly stole more than $2.8 million in COVID relief Paycheck Protection Program funds, including one who claimed she was affiliated with a Dayton-area pizza restaurant chain.

Lorie A. Schaefer, 62, of Westerville, received nearly $1.9 million in relief funds after falsely claiming she was connected to Flying Pizza, which has restaurants in Dayton, Centerville and Fairborn, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Ohio.

In March 2021, Schaefer established a business entity with the Ohio Secretary of State called Lorie Schaefer DBA Flying Pizza LLC using a Reedsville address that was owned by her ex-husband, according to a federal complaint.

Schaefer’s ex-husband, Joseph Graci, established the original Flying Pizza in 1984.

She applied for a PPP loan around May 12, 2021, for the business, claiming there were 98 employees with an average monthly payroll of $749,000. The loan was to cover payroll, rent/mortgage interest, utilities and other business expenses.

Instead, Schaefer used the funds for personal expenses, including $900,000 to purchase and renovate a Westerville condo, nearly $26,000 on liposuction, $10,000 on a check for a “newborn baby gift” and other purchases at Wayfair, Lamps Plus, Kroger, KFC, Burger King, Arby’s, McDonald’s and Olive Garden, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Evidence reportedly suggested she also used the money to buy vehicles in Ohio and property in Australia.

A witness who spoke to federal investigators said the three Flying Pizza locations had approximately 20 employees and that the business was run by family members not including Schaefer, according to court records.

Frank Graci, who identified himself as an owner of the Dayton Flying Pizza location, said Tuesday afternoon that he was aware of the investigation but not of the indictments. He said the fraud scheme did not harm the family business.

Schaefer also is accused of helping her co-defendant, 42-year-old Latisha C. Holloway of Reynoldsburg, steal $980,000 in PPP loans.

Holloway submitted her loan application within a month of Schaefer receiving PPP funds and later wired Schaefer $180,000 after receiving her loan, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Both women were arrested last August and have been indicted with two counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering, according to court records.

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