ST. LOUIS – A St. Louis woman was sentenced to several years in federal prison after targeting Instagram users in a $57,000 fraud scheme.

A federal judge sentenced Nikia French, 30, to three years and one month in prison on Monday. French has also been ordered to pay back tens of thousands of dollars in restitution.

Earlier in the year, French pleaded guilty to two counts of bank fraud and admitted to recruiting people on Instagram who were willing to let French use their bank accounts.

According to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice, French created counterfeit checks, deposited them in the accounts and withdrew money or made debit card purchases before the bank learned that the checks were fake.

Between February and April 2022, French deposited or attempted to deposit counterfeit checks totaling at least $73,000 and received at least $34,000 in proceeds.

Court documents allege French also submitted two fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program loan applications in April 2021, falsely inflated her gross income to obtain loans, and used the money for personal purchases at restaurants and clothing stores.

“Today’s sentence brings to a conclusion an investigation that began with one stolen check, and ultimately led to Postal Inspectors uncovering the defendant’s involvement in multiple fraud schemes,” said Inspector in Charge Ruth Mendonça who leads the Chicago Division of the United States Postal Inspection Service, which includes the St. Louis Field Office.  “The defendant will now be held accountable for the thousands of dollars she obtained through various criminal enterprises.”

The U.S. Department of Justice adds that French lied on the applications when she said she had not been convicted of a felony involving fraud in the last five years.