Dog breeder Luke Pierre Jr., 36, of Port St. Lucie, Florida, was sentenced to two years in prison Tuesday for obtaining a fraudulent $414,675 Paycheck Protection Program loan, $100,000 of which he passed to a co-conspirator disguised as a payment of “Stud fees,” the Department of Justice said—one of the latest in a string of convictions for Covid relief fraud.
Keyaira Bostic, 32, of Pembroke Pines, Florida, was sentenced Thursday to 44 months in prison for defrauding the PPP of more than $3.3 million in loans after she inflated the number of employees and the average paycheck size at her business, I Am Liquid Inc ., receiving nearly $2 million in loan proceeds and using kickbacks to recruit co-conspirators into her scheme, the DOJ said.
Former healthcare company owner Amina Abbas, 36, of Taylor, Michigan, pleaded guilty Tuesday to theft of public money in connection to a plot that siphoned off about $37,657 in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds intended for patient care by writing checks to family members for personal use—the first case of its kind filed in the US
Toxicology lab owner Christopher Licata, 45, of Delray Beach, Florida pleaded guilty January 13 to conspiracy to defraud Medicare in connection to a scheme that bundled vital Covid testing to more expensive, unnecessary tests for rare pathogens, resulting in over $6.9 million in false and fraudulent Medicare claims, the DOJ said.
Hunter VanPelt, aka Ellen Corkrum, 49, of Roswell, Georgia was sentenced to 41 months of prison January 4 for plotting to obtain over $7.9 million in fraudulent PPP loans on behalf of various healthcare companies by submitting fake tax records, bank statements and payroll reports to misrepresent employee numbers and payroll expenses, according to the DOJ.
Phillip J. Augustin, 52, of Coral Springs, Florida, and James R. Stote, 55, of Hollywood, Florida—who was also a co-conspirator to Pierre and Bostic—pled guilty in December to conspiracy to commit wire fraud after they submitted or facilitated at least 79 fraudulent PPP loan applications worth at least $35 million, bolstering their applications with faked payroll and IRS documents, the DOJ said.
Covid has impacted small businesses severely, forcing about 43% of US small businesses to temporarily close by July 2020 due to reduced customer demand and employee health concerns, according to a study published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America America. The $953 billion Paycheck Protection Program was established in 2020 through the CARES Act to help businesses struggling with the Covid pandemic maintain their payroll, hire back laid-off employees and cover overhead through low-interest private loans. In 2020, the PPP issued over 6.5 million loans totaling over $275 billion. The DOJ’s Fraud Section has so far prosecuted over 150 defendants in over 95 criminal cases and has seized over $75 million in cash, as well as numerous real estate properties and luxury items, from fraudulently obtained PPP loans, the department said Thursday.
“While many businesses in our communities relied upon relief funds to keep their doors open and employees paid, these defendants profited off a scheme that stole millions of taxpayer dollars intended for struggling businesses and spent it lavishly on themselves,” said First Assistant US Attorney Michelle M. Baeppler, referring to Augustin and Stote. “Theft of government funds will not be tolerated, and prosecuting PPP fraud remains a priority for law enforcement.”
Dog stud fees typically range from $250 to $1,000, according to veterinary news site PetKeen.
“Businesswoman Pleads Guilty To Stealing Covid Relief Funds In First Case Of Its Kind” (Forbes)