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Last Updated on: 28th July 2023, 07:21 pm
As the pandemic swept across the nation, small businesses were faced with unprecedented challenges. In response, the government created the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, to provide urgently needed financial relief. With over $950 billion authorized in forgivable loans, the program aimed to help small businesses maintain their workforce, access working capital, and keep operations running as normally as possible.
But as the PPP funds flowed, the government soon discovered that a significant amount of money was obtained fraudulently by parties who wouldn’t have otherwise qualified for a loan. The Department of Justice and other government agencies have since launched a vigorous investigation and prosecution of allegations of PPP loan fraud, dedicating entire sections to these efforts.
If you or your business is facing PPP loan fraud charges, the stakes are high. The potential penalties for white-collar crimes such as fraud can include severe fines, home detention, community confinement, paying the cost of prosecution, forfeitures, restitution, supervised release, and lengthy imprisonment. For immigrants, the consequences can be even more serious, as fraud involving more than $10,000 is considered an aggravated felony and a crime involving moral turpitude, making non-citizens vulnerable to deportation.
At our law firm, we understand the gravity of the situation and are prepared to vigorously defend you against PPP loan fraud allegations. We will gather all the necessary information, including the evidence the government has against you, to review your defense options. Our criminal defense lawyers will then reach out to the federal prosecutor or agents assigned to your case, providing them with information that can make a beneficial impact on your case.
There are several acts and omissions that can result in PPP fraud allegations, including but not limited to: loan application fraud, loan stacking, fraudulent loan certification, using funds for ineligible purposes, and concealing or misrepresenting information during an audit. If charged, you may face one or more of the following charges related to obtaining a loan under fraudulent circumstances: making a false statement, bank fraud, and wire fraud. Each of these charges carries a potential punishment of up to 30 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $1,000,000.
If you or your business is facing PPP loan fraud allegations, time is of the essence. We urge you to retain our law firm as soon as possible. Our experienced attorneys will use their knowledge of what the government looks for in PPP loan fraud cases to your advantage and work tirelessly to achieve the best possible outcome for you.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan fraud is a federal crime under the Small Business Act. It involves obtaining money by false pretenses through the CARES Act. This is a serious crime that carries potential prison time, fines, and repayment of the loan. As of April 2020, eligible small businesses can obtain up to $10 million to cover payroll, mortgages, rent, and utilities for eight weeks, but only businesses affected by COVID-19 and with fewer than 500 full-time employees are eligible for CARES relief.
As the PPP program was immensely popular, lenders were flooded with applications as soon as the program opened, and with an initial $350 billion endowment, the PPP effectively ran out of funding within minutes. However, with little regulation in place and many businesses left out in the cold, accusations of fraud soon followed.
To date, the SBA’s Office of Inspector General has issued 11 reports detailing widespread fraud and abuse in the PPP loan program. In one report, the OIG found that “the PPP is vulnerable to fraud because it lacks adequate controls to prevent, detect and punish misuse of funds.”
The OIG has referred dozens of cases of suspected fraud to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution. It’s important to note that the sentence depends on the specific offense, making false statements or overvaluing securities can lead to $5,000 fine and/or 2 years in Federal Prison. Embezzlement can lead to $10,000 fine and/or 5 years in prison. Plus, the defendant will need to pay restitution.
People facing PPP loan fraud charges can argue that either:
Defendants are not criminally liable if they accidentally provided false information. Loan applications are complicated and people – especially in a time of heightened stress – may inadvertently get things wrong.
In most cases, federal criminal records are unsealable. Fraud involving more than $10,000 is an aggravated felony. Fraud is also a crime involving moral turpitude. Therefore, non-citizens convicted of CARES Act fraud are vulnerable to deportation. Aliens facing criminal charges are encouraged to consult with legal counsel as soon as possible. A criminal defense attorney may be able to get the charges dismissed or reduced to a non-deportable offense.
In conclusion, PPP loan fraud is a serious crime that can lead to severe consequences for businesses and individuals. It’s important to be aware of the program’s criteria and to be honest when applying for loans. Business owners should keep all their records, such as email communications, voicemails, bank statements, accounting notes, receipts, and bills, to serve as valuable proof of the defendant’s innocence if the government levies a false accusation. If you have any doubts or questions, it’s always best to consult with a legal professional.
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