Florida Officer Charged With Pandemic Relief Fraud
During COVID, the government rolled out several pandemic relief programs geared toward helping businesses remain afloat during the shutdown. The loans were disbursed on the basis of protecting payroll for employees. In some cases, the loans never made it to employees. In more cases, the employees never existed. In other words, some applied for loans under the auspice of owning a business with a set number of employees, but the business was a shell company that had no employees or was defunct at the time the loan was requested. The alleged-perpetrator then pocketed the money for personal use. The forensic specialists at the IRS went over the paperwork, were able to determine that the company had no employees, and then recommended that the loan requester be charged with pandemic relief fraud. To be sure, defrauding a disaster relief program is considered worse under the law than defrauding someone else. The potential maximum sentence is upgraded to 30 years as opposed to 20 for your average wire fraud charge.
In this case, a Miami police officer was charged with using his business to apply for a PPP loan by lying about the number of employees his business had. This ensured that the loan would be larger. According to the charges, the officer was able to recover nearly $300,000 in fraudulently-disbursed loans.
He is the third South Florida officer to face charges of fraud based on COVID relief requests. The charges are often very difficult to beat.
Analyzing fraud charges
The biggest difficulty for prosecutors in a fraud case is proving that the defendant knowingly submitted false information for the purpose of depriving the federal government of money that they were not entitled to. In other words, the government has to establish the intent of the defendant. This can be tricky in some cases, but these cases are resulting in a majority of guilty pleas. Defendants find very little wiggle room to establish that they mistakenly misrepresented the number of employees that their business had.
For the IRS and federal prosecutors, they need only establish that the business did not have the reported number of employees used to disburse the loan. However, the IRS did not check every application. Instead, they disbursed loans based on petitions and then investigated them later. So, what little due diligence they did perform was performed after the crime was committed and at a substantial monetary loss to the public. One could argue that the money needed to be infused into the economy as quickly as possible, but it’s very difficult to recover the money once it’s spent and you also have the added overhead of the criminal prosecution.
In truth, the elements of the crime are very simple to describe and very easy for a jury to grasp. The defendant simply lied to collect money they weren’t entitled to. The sentence boils down to the amount of money stolen and the sophistication of the deception.
Talk to a Tallahassee Fraud Defense Lawyer Today
Tallahassee criminal lawyer Luke Newman, P.A. represents the interests of residents who have been charged with white-collar crimes like fraud. Call today to schedule an appointment and we can begin discussing your defense immediately.