Nearly 15 months ago, Miranda Devlin was arrested in Marin County Superior Court on allegations of pretending to be a licensed lawyer. She bailed out of jail, local prosecutors did not file charges, and the case seemingly went quiet.
In fact, Devlin’s troubles were just beginning. Now she is facing federal charges for allegedly cheating the Small Business Administration out of pandemic relief funds.
“We allege Miranda Devlin committed serial fraud,” said David Anderson, the U.S. attorney in San Francisco.
Devlin, 37, of San Francisco was arraigned in federal court on Friday on charges of making false statements on the aid application and wire fraud. Prosecutors said the first count carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison and a fine of $1 million; the second, 20 years and $250,000.
Devlin — also known as Miranda Martin and Miranda Petrillo — did not enter a plea. She was released on a $500,000 bond and has a status hearing next month.
The federal complaint is under seal, but a prosecution statement outlined its allegations.
In late 2019, prosecutors allege, Devlin assumed the names of two actual attorneys — both with the first name Miranda — to represent a pair of accused molesters facing trial in Marin.
The alleged scheme fell apart after local authorities and Judge Paul Haakenson began to investigate irregularities in her credentials.
Miranda was arrested on a court order obtained by prosecution investigators. She was released on bail pending further investigation.
In a phone interview after her arrest, Miranda said she is a legitimate lawyer operating under her real married name. She blamed the name discrepancies on clerical errors.
“I just have people writing motions for me and stuff,” she said. “I don’t look at every little detail.”
The investigation continued into 2020, and then the coronavirus pandemic hit. Investigators learned that Devlin, who had created an entity called Common Nucleus of Cancer LLC, applied for pandemic aid under the Paycheck Protection Program at the Small Business Administration.
Devlin obtained $32,700 in relief funds by falsely claiming the entity had two employees on the payroll throughout 2019 and into last February, prosecutors said.
“Once the loan was funded, Devlin used the money for a variety of unauthorized non-payroll expenses, such as purchases from Amazon, Bloomingdale’s, and Tiffany & Co., and for purchases of stock,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Devlin listed the purpose of the organization as “research,” according to a statement filed with the California Secretary of State’s Office.
“By allegedly defrauding the Paycheck Protection Program, a program designed to assist our local businesses as they navigate stressful, uncertain times, Miranda Devlin violated the trust of her community,” said Special Agent in Charge Craig Fair, head of the FBI office in San Francisco. “By allegedly exploiting this program and further straining resources designated for pandemic relief, she cheated legitimate, hardworking business owners and their employees.”
Devlin did not respond to an email requesting a statement, and her lawyer, Julia Mezhinsky Jayne, declined to comment.
It remains unclear whether Devlin represented other defendants throughout the Bay Area, and whether those cases will have to be relitigated.
“The FBI believes that there may be additional victims related to Miranda Devlin’s alleged crimes,” the bureau said. “We are urging the public to contact the FBI San Francisco at 415-553-7400 if they believe they are a victim, have information about potential victims, or have information related to this ongoing case.”