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The PPP loan program was established to provide low-interest loans to small businesses that had been adversely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. Businesses that received a PPP loan were required to spend it on approved expenses like payroll, rent, and utilities.
The loan program was popular, but some businesses have been accused of misusing PPP funds. Some recipients may have falsified information on their loan applications to make themselves eligible.
In some cases, businesses that received PPP loans may have used the funds for purposes other than what they were intended for. For example, some businesses may have used PPP loan funds to buy inventory that they could sell at a profit.
The SBA has said that it will audit all PPP loans over $2 million, and it has flagged some loans for further review. Businesses that have had their loans flagged may be subject to increased scrutiny from the SBA.
In 2020 a research study was done, where it was estimated that between 10-15% of loans approved went to borrowers who may have been double dipping(taking too much money from relief programs). In some cases it was unintentional, but in other situations it was fraudulent. Congress included PPP as one of several relief packages in the COVID Act. This was to help businesses retain employees, and prevent people from falling into poverty.
Researchers in 2020 lay the blame on “FinTech” lenders, who didn’t spend enough time stringently analyzing all the loan requests. There was a lot of fraud, or misuse of funds under the PPP program.
PPP Loan Fraud Penalties
There are serious penalties associated with PPP loan fraud. An individual who makes a false statement or representation on a loan application to obtain a PPP loan could face a fine of up to $250,000, a maximum term of imprisonment of five years, or both.
If convicted of a crime related to the PPP loan program, an individual may also face civil liability from the United States in the form of a civil action for any damages or losses caused by the individual’s fraudulent conduct.
In addition to possible criminal and civil penalties, an individual who obtains a PPP loan as a result of fraud may be required to repay the full amount of the loan plus interest.
So the question is – what happens when a ppp loan is flagged?
Many people are receiving requests for information from the government. The question borrowers and banks are wondering about – is what to do, if a subpoena or request for information about the PPP loan is received.
First thing – after a PPP loan is flagged – you should contact our PPP loan fraud lawyers immediately. Responding to the subpoena or investigative request is a task which must be taken seriously. You should involve an advisor to guide you through this process.
You should not do anything before you talk to counsel – because doing so might introduce new evidence that can be used against you. You should develop a strategy to respond to the government with counsel.
All loans over $2 million are by default – being audited. If you took a loan under $2 million, and it is flagged – this can be concerning. It could be that one of your employees is a whistleblower, and as a result is bringing an action against you – by helping the government identify theft and fraud. These cases are known as qui tam cases. There are strict employment and federal laws on how you can deal with such scenarios. You cannot obstruct the government, or retaliate against the employee.
Why are PPP loans getting flagged
There are multiple reasons why a PPP loan could be flagged by the SBA. Here are some circumstances behind why a red flag could be applied on a loan application.
Federal prosecutors and criminal investigators are looking for PPP loan fraud, and other violations of the CARES Act.
What happens when a PPP loan is flagged
If your PPP loan is flagged, you will get a subpoena, or some other civil investigative demand. Depending on which agency is investigating you – the pathway could take a number of different turns. Bottom line, you will need to hire a PPP loan fraud defense lawyer who can help you – and guide you.
The different federal agencies could potentially charge you with a number of crimes, such as: bank fraud, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, false statements to a financial institution, and more.
If your PPP loan is flagged – you should assume you are under investigation for PPP loan fraud. This is essentially the beginning of the PPP loan fraud investigation – and you should hire a PPP loan fraud attorney who can help you.
When you get the notification that the PPP loan is flagged
-You should keep a record of all business and personal records, and not destroy anything
-You should communicate with our attorneys as soon as possible to get help and guidance
PPP Jail Time
A PPP loan recipient who received a loan based on false information may face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Prior to the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act, the maximum term of imprisonment was 30 years.
PPP Loan Forgiveness Fraud
The Paycheck Protection Program loan forgiveness process requires the recipient to document the use of the loan proceeds and the number of employees working during the covered period. Recipients who submit false information to the SBA when applying for loan forgiveness may face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Prior to the Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act, the maximum term of imprisonment was 30 years.
PPP Loan Fraud
PPP loan fraud is a crime that can be charged as a federal crime or as a state crime. Federal PPP loan fraud charges are brought under the federal False Claims Act or federal wire fraud or mail fraud laws. State PPP loan fraud charges are brought under state laws.
The federal False Claims Act prohibits the submission of false claims to the federal government. The False Claims Act applies to all claims for payment that are submitted to the federal government, including PPP loan applications.
The federal wire fraud and mail fraud laws prohibit the use of the U.S. mail or interstate wire communications in furtherance of any scheme to defraud. In order to convict a defendant of wire fraud or mail fraud, the government must prove that the defendant engaged in a scheme to defraud and that the defendant used the mail or interstate wire communications to further the scheme.
The federal wire fraud and mail fraud laws apply to all claims for payment that are submitted to the federal government, including PPP loan applications.
The wire fraud and mail fraud laws also apply to claims for payment that are submitted to state and local governments, including PPP loan applications.
The federal wire fraud and mail fraud laws are broad laws that can be used to prosecute a wide variety of crimes. The wire fraud and mail fraud laws have been used to prosecute a wide variety of crimes, including PPP loan fraud.
State PPP loan fraud laws vary from state to state. Some states have laws that specifically prohibit PPP loan fraud. Other states have laws that prohibit the submission of false claims to the state government.
State PPP loan fraud laws are broad laws that can be used to prosecute a wide variety of crimes. State PPP loan fraud laws have been used to prosecute a wide variety of crimes, including PPP loan fraud.
PPP Loan Fraud Penalties
Federal PPP loan fraud penalties are set by federal law. The penalties for federal PPP loan fraud depend on the specific crime that is charged.
The False Claims Act imposes civil penalties of up to $11,000 for each false claim that is submitted to the government. The False Claims Act also imposes treble damages, which triple the amount of damages that the government suffers as a result of the false claims.
The wire fraud and mail fraud laws impose criminal penalties of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
State PPP loan fraud penalties vary from state to state. Some states have laws that specifically prohibit PPP loan fraud. Other states have laws that prohibit the submission of false claims to the state government.
The penalties for state PPP loan fraud depend on the specific crime that is charged. Some states impose criminal penalties for PPP loan fraud. Other states impose civil penalties for PPP loan fraud.
PPP Loan Fraud Statutes
Federal PPP loan fraud statutes are set by federal law. The federal statutes that apply to PPP loan fraud are the False Claims Act, the wire fraud statute, and the mail fraud statute.
PPP Loan Fraud Resources
The following resources provide information about PPP loan fraud:
We Can Help With PPP Flagged Loans In All 50 States
Alabama, Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Minor Outlying Islands, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Northern Mariana Islands, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, U.S. Virgin Islands, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
When it comes to detecting fraud in loan applications, banks are on high alert. They keep a close eye on any red flags and immediately hand over suspicious cases to the government for further investigation.
As a business owner, if you’ve applied for a loan and your business is only a few weeks old, it’s an automatic red flag. Few businesses can show significant growth in such a short period, especially during a pandemic. Banks also scrutinize personal histories, so if an applicant with a track record of maintaining a few thousand dollars suddenly claims to have a $10,000-a-month payroll, it’s another red flag.
Fraudsters might try to include non-existent employees in payroll sheets, but banks can easily catch them during the verification process. Another scheme is using someone’s personal information without their knowledge, which creates conflicts when fake employees appear on someone else’s payroll. Banks quickly identify such red flags and initiate follow-up investigations.
The biggest problem with fraudulent loan applications is submitting false documentation. Banks go back to the source material and verify it. If they find discrepancies, the application is considered fraudulent. Even after the loan approval process, banks closely scrutinize all loans to detect any suspicious activities.
During the investigation process, banks verify the documentation provided by the applicant. If the bank statements submitted are flagged as potential fraud, the bank will subpoena the original statements from the source. If the originals do not match the ones submitted, it’s fraud. Similarly, the IRS checks on the employees reported on the applicant’s taxes, making it easy to verify W2s or 1099s. Investigators might also contact individual employees and the accountant who prepared the documents for further clarification.
Lack of knowledge is another red flag that leads to indictments. Fraudulent business owners often don’t know how to falsify documents and commit financial fraud. That’s where sophisticated schemers step in, offering help. However, some people take the lazy route and only change a few names on a template, leading to banks detecting similar documentation from other companies and initiating investigations.
The bottom line is, fraudulent loan applications are closely scrutinized by banks, and any red flags lead to investigations. It’s important to provide accurate information and submit genuine documentation to avoid legal trouble.
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