The government’s PPP Loan program, which provided loans and loan forgiveness to help business owners meet payroll and other expenses during 2020-2021 pandemic-related shutdowns, ended over six months ago. However, since that time, the Department of Justice, the Small Business Administration and numerous other government agencies have marshalled their resources to ramp up investigations and prosecutions of businesses and sole proprietors suspected of PPP loan fraud.
Throughout the past six months, federal prosecutors have been aggressively targeting businesses suspected of exploiting the relaxed PPP loan application and approval process and committing federal offenses. These offenses include acts such as making false statements on the loan application, applying for PPP loans from more than one lender, using loan money for unapproved purchases or expenditures, submitting a fraudulent certification for PPP loan forgiveness and lying to federal agents.
If you are suspected of having committed one or more of these acts, you could be charged with serious federal crimes such as bank fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud and making false statements to a financial institution. You need an experienced federal defense attorney to help protect your rights and mitigate the consequences of these serious federal charges.
What Federal Charges Are Being Made against People Accused of PPP Loan Fraud?
The most common charges levelled against people accused of PPP loan fraud are:
- Wire Fraud – Under 18 U.S.C. Section 1343, transmitting false information across state lines using the “wires” (e.g., the phone, the internet) in order to defraud someone to obtain money or property is a federal crime. If the wire fraud is related to a presidentially declared major disaster or emergency or affects a financial institution, someone convicted of wire fraud can be fined up to $1,000,000 or sentenced to prison for up to 30 years or both. Otherwise, someone convicted of a wire fraud violation is fined depending on the extent of the fraud and can be sentenced for up to 20 years in prison.
- Bank Fraud – If you defraud a financial institution or obtain money or other assets of a financial institution by fraudulent means, you are in violation of 18 U.S.C. Section 1344 and can be fined up to $1,000,000 or imprisoned for up to 30 years or both.
- False Statements to a Financial Institution – 18 U.S.C. Section 1014 makes it a federal crime to knowingly make false statements or reports to a bank or other financial institution in order to influence their actions. If found guilty of violating this law, you can be fined up to $1,000,00 or imprisoned for up to 30 years or both.
- Conspiracy to Commit Fraud – Under 18 U.S.C. Section 1349, anyone who attempts or conspires to commit one of the aforementioned fraud offenses can be found guilty of conspiracy to commit fraud. Even if you did not actually obtain money or property fraudulently or make a false statement to a financial institution, you can face the penalty for the fraud offense you attempted or conspired to commit.
What Are the Sentences for PPP Loan Fraud Crimes in Florida?
Throughout the past eight months, many Florida residents have been charged and sentenced for PPP loan fraud crimes. Recently, two Florida men pleaded guilty to a $35 million fraud scheme. They face a penalty of up to 20 years in prison. Another Florida man, whom the two schemers helped obtain PPP loans, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and was ordered to pay $1,111,345.23 in restitution and $1,134,782 in forfeiture and serve 20 months in prison.
In November, a South Florida tax preparer was sentenced to forfeiture of $900,000 and two years in prison for fraudulently obtaining over 100 PPP loans. In addition, a Miami resident pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and was sentenced to 42 months in prison and forfeiture of $921,875 for submitting fraudulent tax documents and false information about the number of employees and average payroll of his company in order to obtain a PPP loan.
Obviously, as 2021 draws to a close, the Department of Justice is not letting up on its PPP loan fraud investigations and prosecutions. As Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division has said, “We will continue to combat fraud and ensure that COVID-19 relief goes to those who deserve it.”
Get Help from a Florida Federal Defense Attorney Experienced in Defending Federal Financial Crime Cases
When you are being investigated by federal agents or have been charged with a federal crime related to PPP loan fraud, you need a highly-skilled, experienced federal defense attorney protecting your rights and fighting for the best possible outcome. You especially need an attorney experienced in defending federal financial crime cases.
Attorney David Haas has over twenty years of legal experience, including almost ten years as a federal prosecutor with special experience in financial crimes. He knows how federal prosecutors work and will put his knowledge and expertise to work helping you get the best deal possible.
Call Haas Law today at 407-755-7675, chat with us online, or submit the “Tell Us What Happened” form on our website.