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As the Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General (SBA-OIG) targets companies accused of fraud in the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), some recipients wonder if the scrutiny outweighs the benefits of the loans. Recipients hoping for loan forgiveness must respond to inquiries from the federal government to defend against loan fraud.
Two investigative arms of the SBA-OIG currently target company officers, owners and board members with intrusive questioning. While the Investigations Division focuses on identifying and prosecuting anyone suspected of obtaining PPP taxpayer funds fraudulently, the Auditing Division conducts audits of recipients of $2 million or more.
Understanding the Intent of the SBA-OIG
The SBA-OIG Investigations Division’s review of companies’ loan applications focuses on detecting signs of fraud in eligibility misrepresentations, the use of funds and loan forgiveness certifications under the CARES Act. If your company becomes a target, the Investigation Division can identify certain acts, misrepresentations and omissions as indicators of PPP loan fraud. In addition, the Department of Justice (DOJ) may use SBA-OIG evidence as a basis for other charges.
Knowing What to Expect
Allegations that companies may face due to the SBA-OIG PPP fraudulent loan investigations include eight areas of interest.
1. Fraudulent Loan Application
An error on the Borrower Application Form can invite scrutiny by the SBA-OIG. The form requires an affirmation that a company qualifies as a small business under the Small Business Act and meets specific standards.
2. Illegal or Unauthorized Use of Funds
PPP terms require limiting funds to payroll, interest and rent according to previously established conditions. In addition, a statement from the Treasure Department indicates that the fraudulent use of PPP loan proceeds can allow the government to pursue criminal charges.
3. Fraudulent Certification of PPP Loan Forgiveness
The forgiveness of a PPP loan requires a company to certify the use of funds for authorized purposes. When the SBA determines that a company did not meet the PPP requirement, it can seek repayment of the outstanding loan balance and notify lenders that a borrower has no eligibility for loan forgiveness.
4. Federal Bank Fraud
Since private lenders provided funds for PPP loans, companies can face the risk of facing prosecution for bank fraud. A combination of penalties may require as much as $1,000,000, imprisonment of up to 30 years or both.
5. Wire Fraud
The alleged improper use or receipt of PPP loan funds has produced charges of wire fraud by the DOJ, a federal crime that can carry statutory fines and federal imprisonment of up to 20 years.
6. False or Misleading Information
Penalties for misrepresenting information to the SBA-OIG can require company officers, owners, board members and others to face a fine of $250,000 and up to five years in prison. Further, the DOJ may pursue charges as well.
7. Tax Evasion/Fraud
Allegations of tax fraud and evasion may result from payroll misrepresentations that companies used to establish loan eligibility. The Internal Revenue Service imposes restrictions on expenses that qualify as deductions. Evidence of tax fraud or evasion may provide a basis for examination by IRS Criminal Investigations.
8. Federal Identity Theft
Fraudulent claims of company ownership may require individuals to face charges of federal identity theft. Anyone claiming ownership of a company that filed PPP loan applications may need to provide proof if an investigation occurs.
Using Caution in Asserting Defenses
Companies and individuals targeted by the SBA-OIG may need to exercise care in asserting a defense that protects against liability for fraud. The exposure may lead to prosecution for conspiracy. Both federal crimes impose significant fines and imprisonment. The SBA-OIG relies on PPP lender response to subpoenas, input from whistleblowers and loan recipients.
Anticipating the Need for Loan Fraud Defense
Any evidence indicating your company participated in any fraud related to the PPP increases the likelihood that SBA-OIG or another federal agency may start an investigation.
At Spodek Law, our federal defense attorneys represent companies across the country. We bring you more than a hundred years of combined experience in solving problems. If you have concerns about PPP loan fraud audits or investigations, call us.
PPP Loan Fraud Defense Lawyers
PPP Loan Fraud Defense is a serious and often misunderstood topic, as the consequences of fraud can be far-reaching. Whether you’ve been accused of PPP loan fraud or are trying to protect your organization from it, understanding these legal issues is key to protecting yourself and your assets.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was designed to help people and businesses affected by the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. Unfortunately, some took advantage of this lifeline in order to commit fraud – but that doesn’t mean you have to pay for someone else’s mistakes. Here are a few steps you can take in order to defend yourself or your business against PPP loan fraud:
• Review all documents related to the application process carefully: The most important step when investigating potential PPP loan fraud is thoroughly reviewing all available documentation related to the application process. This includes all emails sent during the process, any internal records regarding who approved applications for funding, etc.
• Contact an experienced attorney if necessary: If there is any indication that something might be amiss with your PPP loan application or funds received as part of it, contact an experienced attorney immediately in order ensure you receive proper legal advice pertaining to these matters.
• Stay informed about recent developments on this topic: It’s important that individuals stay informed about recent changes in laws related to PPP loans and their defenses so they are not caught off guard should they ever find themselves in a situation where they need guidance on how best proceed with defending themselves against charges of fraudulent activity involving their loans.. Additionally, governmental agencies such as the Small Business Administration (SBA) have recently issued new guidelines which may help those accused of fraudulent activities gain insight into what measures need taken moving forward – make sure you’re aware!
Though no one likes having their name mentioned alongside “fraud” accusations – especially when it comes time for applying for financing – understanding what steps must be taken if such allegations arise can relieve much stress associated with taking care of them head-on successfully so further damage isn’t done downlinee due too hastily made decisions without knowledge beforehand… Taking smart preventative measures like educating yourself frequently about these topics will ensure you remain knowledgeable throughout each stage involved when needing defense form potential PPF Loan Fraud cases.
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