The case of a Florida man charged with making false statements in applying for a Paycheck Protection Plan loan underscores the federal government’s new emphasis on prosecuting white-collar crimes concerning COVID-19 relief programs.
The Miramar, Florida man was sentenced to 33 months in prison on fraud charges relating to the COVID-19 relief program’s Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP). Andre Clark pleaded guilty in May to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Clark admitted he received a PPP loan of $488,565 for his company, Top Choice LLC. Clark got the loan by preparing a PPP application with false information. A co-conspirator, James Stote, filed the falsified application on his behalf. Besides jail time, Clark has to pay $2,975,086 in restitution.
In May 2021, the Justice Department created the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force. The task force focuses on individuals and groups of people who have filed fraudulent PPP applications for loans.
The task force coordinates investigations among the various federal law enforcement agencies which look into instances of fraud involving PPP loan applications. For instance, the Clarke investigation and prosecution noted above included the efforts of the IRS Criminal Investigation unit, the FBI and the Small Business Bureau Office of Inspector General. Moreover, attorneys from the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of Florida and the Justice Department’s Criminal Division Fraud Section prosecuted the case.
Types of fraudulent applications include those that misstate the number of employees at a company to inflate the size of the company’s payroll. Some people have even filed multiple applications for nonexistent or dormant businesses, all with the goal of collecting more money than they are entitled to.
Some people have received loan proceeds but spent the money on prohibited purposes, such as homes, cars and other luxury items. While COVID and its effects on the economy still continue, the federal government is aware of the extent of PPP fraud and is looking to continue cracking down on offenders.
The Law Office of Roma W. Theus, II, P.A. is well-versed in federal law and has defended a broad range of white-collar criminal cases in Florida and elsewhere in the country. If you have been charged with PPP fraud or suspect that you are being investigated, please call 954.281.4851 or contact me online to request a consultation at my Wellington office.
The Law Office of Roma W. Theus, II, P.A. is located in Wellington, FL and serves clients in and around Loxahatchee and Pahokee.
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