Four Michigan Residents Charged with COVID-Relief Fraud
A criminal information was docketed today charging four Michigan residents in connection with a wire fraud scheme involving over $4.1 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
According to court documents, Antonio George, 45, of Novi, attempted to obtain approximately $4.1 million in PPP and EIDL loans through applications submitted on behalf of 16 different companies. The information alleges that along with George, Kevin Womble, 37, of Detroit, Andrae Sims, 43, of Farmington Hills, and Sarah Vidal, 31, of Novi, provided false and misleading documents about certain aspects of the companies’ respective business operations and payroll expenses. For example, the information alleges that George obtained payroll information that was used to support a seemingly legitimate PPP loan application submitted on behalf of an unrelated entity and then used the unrelated entity’s payroll information to support fraudulent PPP and EIDL loan applications.
George, Womble, Sims and Vidal are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. George, a tax preparer, is also charged with three counts of aiding and assisting in the preparation of false and fraudulent returns for conduct related to his tax preparation business. If convicted of all counts, George faces a maximum total penalty of 29 years in prison. Womble, Sims and Vidal each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
George, Womble and Sims are scheduled to make their initial appearances today in the Eastern District of Michigan. Vidal is set to make her initial appearance tomorrow.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Acting U.S. Attorney Saima Mohsin of the Eastern District of Michigan; Special Agent in Charge Timothy Waters of the FBI’s Detroit Field Office; Inspector General Hannibal Mike Ware of the SBA’s Office of the Inspector General (SBA-OIG); and Acting Special Agent in Charge Brian Thomas of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) made the announcement.
The FBI, SBA-OIG and IRS-CI are investigating the case.
Trial Attorney Patrick J. Suter of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney John K. Neal of the Eastern District of Michigan are prosecuting the case.
The Fraud Section leads the department’s prosecution of fraud schemes that exploit the PPP. Since the PPP began, Fraud Section attorneys have prosecuted more than 100 defendants in more than 70 criminal cases. The Fraud Section has also seized more than $65 million in cash proceeds derived from fraudulently obtained PPP funds, as well as numerous real estate properties and luxury items purchased with such proceeds. More information can be found at https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/ppp-fraud.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
An information is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.