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How much time can you get for ppp fraud?

By Spodek Law Group | February 15, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 13, 2023)

Last Updated on: 13th October 2023, 02:16 am

How Much Time Can You Get for PPP Fraud?

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was created in 2020 to provide economic relief for small businesses struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. PPP offered potentially forgivable loans to help cover payroll, rent, utilities and other business expenses. However, some business owners and individuals took advantage of the program and committed fraud to obtain funds they weren‘t entitled to. So how much time can you actually get for PPP fraud?Well, it really depends on the specific circumstances and charges – PPP fraud can potentially lead to decades in prison. Let‘s take a look at some of the factors that determine sentencing for PPP fraud crimes:

Types of PPP Fraud

There are a few main ways PPP fraud can occur:

  • Providing false information on a PPP loan application, such as overstating number of employees, payroll expenses, or falsifying other documents.
  • Using PPP funds for unauthorized personal purchases instead of approved business expenses like payroll.
  • Lying on the loan forgiveness application about how funds were used in order to have the loan forgiven.
  • Applying for multiple PPP loans from different lenders, known as “loan stacking.”
  • Creating fake businesses or stealing identities to apply for fraudulent PPP loans.
  • Conspiring with others to commit PPP fraud.

Criminal Charges for PPP Fraud

While the CARES Act itself doesn’t contain criminal penalties, PPP fraud can lead to charges under pre-existing federal fraud laws, including:

  • Wire fraud (18 USC §1343) – up to 30 years imprisonment
  • Bank fraud (18 USC §1344) – up to 30 years imprisonment and $1 million fine
  • Making false statements (18 USC §1001) – up to 5 years imprisonment
  • Aggravated identity theft (18 USC §1028A) – mandatory 2 years imprisonment
  • Money laundering (18 USC §1956) – up to 20 years imprisonment per violation
  • Tax evasion (26 USC §7201) – up to 5 years imprisonment
  • Conspiracy to defraud the government (18 USC §371) – up to 5 years imprisonment

So right off the bat, certain PPP fraud charges carry potential penalties of decades in prison. And individuals can face multiple charges at once – for example, bank fraud plus aggravated identity theft.

Sentencing Factors in PPP Fraud Cases

When it comes to determining an actual sentence, federal judges look at a variety of factors, including:

  • Federal Sentencing Guidelines – These rules take into account the amount of financial loss and other circumstances to provide a recommended sentencing range. Larger loan amounts generally mean longer recommended sentences.
  • Criminal History – Repeat offenders typically get harsher sentences. A defendant with a criminal record can expect more prison time than a first-time offender.
  • Acceptance of Responsibility – Defendants who plead guilty and express remorse may receive lighter sentences.
  • Restitution – Judges may consider a defendant’s repayment of stolen funds as a mitigating factor.
  • Type of Fraud – Certain PPP fraud schemes are viewed as more egregious, like creating fake businesses or stealing identities.
  • Role in Offense – Defendants who were organizers or leaders of criminal schemes typically receive longer sentences than lower-level accomplices.

PPP Fraud Sentencing Examples

Looking at actual cases can help illustrate how much prison time PPP fraudsters have received:

  • A Texas man received over 9 years in federal prison for fraudulently obtaining $24.8 million in PPP loans and spending the money on luxury items and real estate. He pled guilty to wire fraud and money laundering.
  • Two Rhode Island men were sentenced to 30 months and 3 years in prison for conspiring to get $544,000 in fraudulent PPP loans. They pled guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud.
  • A Seattle man received a 6-month prison term for obtaining $1.1 million in fraudulent PPP loans and using the funds to gamble at casinos. He pled guilty to wire fraud and money laundering.
  • Two owners of a California trucking company both got 1 year in prison for obtaining $3.6 million in PPP loans using false employee numbers and payroll expenses.

So while judges have flexibility in sentencing, even relatively “small” PPP fraud cases of several hundred thousand dollars have led to years in federal prison – especially when factors like criminal history or leadership role come into play.And the Department of Justice has made it clear that PPP fraud of any amount will be prosecuted, saying “If you make false statements to get a PPP loan or use PPP loan proceeds to enrich yourself, you can expect us to come knocking.”

Avoiding Jail Time for PPP Fraud

For defendants facing PPP fraud charges, avoiding prison time requires an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer. Strategies may include:

  • Plea negotiations – An attorney may be able to get charges dropped or reduced, or reach a plea deal with lighter sentencing recommendations.
  • Sentencing memos – Defense lawyers can submit documents outlining mitigating factors that warrant a lower sentence.
  • Appealing sentence – After sentencing, lawyers can file appeals arguing a sentence was improperly calculated or excessive.
  • Cooperating with prosecutors – In some cases, defendants can potentially earn lighter sentences by providing substantial assistance with investigating other PPP fraud cases.

But there are never any guarantees when it comes to avoiding jail for PPP fraud. Much depends on the specific circumstances, charges, and federal judge. For lower level offenders with no criminal history and relatively small loan amounts, probation or home confinement may be possible.Yet for multi-million dollar fraud schemes involving false documents, stolen identities, or lavish personal spending, defendants are facing steep uphill battles against lengthy prison sentences, especially if they proceed to trial rather than reach a plea agreement.

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