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What happens if you do PPP fraud?

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

Last Updated on: 13th October 2023, 02:04 am

What Happens If You Do PPP Fraud?

So you‘re thinking about applying for a PPP loan, or you already got one. That’s great! The Paycheck Protection Program has thrown a lifeline to tons of small businesses during COVID. But with all that easy government money floating around, some folks are tempted to fudge some details on their application. I totally get it – times are tough, and you just want your business to survive. But let me give you a friendly warning: Don’t do it! 

Committing PPP fraud can land you in a mess of legal trouble.I want to walk you through exactly what kinds of charges you could face if you get caught lying on your PPP application. My goal here isn’t to scare you, but to give you the facts so you can make smart choices. Let’s dive in!

The Types of Lies That Get People in Trouble

First, what kinds of fibs on a PPP application could be considered fraud? Here are some of the big ones:

  • Saying you have more employees than you really do. The size of your loan is based on payroll costs, so more “employees” equals more money!
  • Claiming your business makes more revenue than it actually does. Again, bigger business = bigger loan.
  • Applying for multiple PPP loans from different lenders. Called “double dipping,” this is a definite no-no.
  • Using PPP funds for personal expenses instead of approved business costs. The money is only for payroll, rent, etc.
  • Lying on your forgiveness application about how you spent the funds. You have to use at least 60% on payroll to get forgiveness.

Ok, so now you know what not to do if you want to stay on the right side of the law. But what happens if you do commit some PPP fraud?

You Could Face Serious Criminal Charges

While the CARES Act itself doesn’t spell out penalties for PPP fraud, prosecutors can come after you using other federal laws. And they are – the Department of Justice is actively investigating and charging people who lied to get PPP loans.Some of the potential criminal charges include:

  • Bank fraud – This charges carries up to 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine!
  • Wire fraud – Using any interstate communications like phone, internet, etc for fraud. Up to 20 years in prison.
  • Identity theft – Up to 15 years in prison if you use someone else’s identity.
  • False statements – Up to 5 years in prison for lying to the Small Business Association or on your application.
  • Tax evasion – Up to 5 years in prison for not reporting PPP funds as income.
  • Conspiracy to defraud – If you work with others to commit fraud, up to 5 years in prison.

Yikes! As you can see, the penalties for PPP fraud are no joke. We’re talking serious fines and years behind bars.

You’ll Have to Pay Back the Money

On top of potential prison time, if you’re convicted of PPP fraud, you’ll have to repay all the loan money you received. And if you already got your loan forgiven, you‘ll owe that amount too.This can easily add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars or more! Not only will you have a criminal record, but you‘ll be buried under a mountain of debt.

Your Reputation Will Be Ruined

Finally, being charged and convicted of PPP fraud will destroy your reputation. Customers won‘t want to do business with you. You may not be able to get loans, credits cards, or other financing in the future.And if you own a licensed business, like contractors or real estate brokers, you are likely to lose your license after a fraud conviction.

What To Do If You’re Worried About PPP Fraud

Ok, say you already fibbed a bit on your PPP application, and now you’re worried about getting caught. Here’s my advice:

  • Don’t panic! – The government isn’t necessarily looking closely at every single PPP loan.
  • Consult an attorney – They can advise you on your risks and legal options.
  • Be honest going forward – Don’t compound your issues by lying to investigators.
  • Pay back the loan – Returning the money voluntarily can help avoid criminal charges.

The rules around PPP loans can be really confusing, especially in the beginning. 

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