The Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020. It is designed to provide emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans who are suffering financially from the COVID-19 pandemic. Part of the CARES Act is the authorization of up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and other expenses through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). In April 2020, Congress authorized over $300 billion in additional funding, and in December 2020, another $284 billion. Now that the pandemic feels a bit more handled and businesses are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, the government is now making a sweep of people who abused PPP loans. Several people are being accused and charged with fraud for claiming businesses and payroll expenses that do not exist. A recent notable case is Jeremie Saintvil, a Florida man who allegedly obtained more than $1.5 million in PPP loans from credit unions and banks. This includes committing identity theft against eight elderly individuals. Before leaving office, U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan of the Southern District of Florida coined South Florida “the fraud capital of the world” and she may have a point. Over the past year, 38 criminal cases with $75 million in fraudulent COVID-19 relief claims have been filed. This is the highest number of any region in the country. A few things that fall under the umbrella of PPP fraud are:
- Spending PPP funds for unapproved purposes
- PPP loans from multiple lenders
- Overstating the number of employees
- Understating the number of employees (PPP loans are only for businesses with less than 500 employees)
- Making inaccurate statements on a PPP application
- Identity Theft
If you are the target of an investigation for PPP fraud or have been charged with offenses relating to PPP fraud, you should hire a lawyer as soon as possible. The government is cracking down on those who may have committed PPP fraud and getting an experienced lawyer is your best chance at reducing your penalties or getting your case dropped altogether. Contact the law office of Michael B. Cohen today.