SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – A Springfield, Illinois, man, Alex Jennings, 40 formerly of Lincoln, Illinois, was sentenced on July 20, 2023, to 12 months and one day in the federal Bureau of Prisons, to be followed by a three year term of supervised release, following his conviction for wire fraud. Jennings was further ordered to pay $46,666 in restitution.
At the sentencing hearing in front of Senior U.S. District Judge Sue E. Myerscough, the government presented evidence that Jennings defrauded the Small Business Administration and a private lender into providing him with two Paycheck Protection Program loans for which he did not qualify. Jennings instead spent the money to purchase two cars for himself.
Also at the hearing, Judge Myerscough noted that fraud by Jennings and others like him caused legitimate businesses to miss out on the aid they so desperately needed during a global pandemic. Judge Myerscough found that the defendant had defrauded the federal government and lender of over $40,000.
Jennings had previously pleaded guilty to the four counts of wire fraud in February 2023.
The statutory penalties for wire fraud count are up to 20 years’ imprisonment and up to a $250,000 fine, to be followed by up to three years of supervised release.
“The Paycheck Protection Program was supposed to help businesses stay open and keep workers employed during a global emergency,” said U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Harris. “However, many people instead applied for this money illegally. This office will continue its efforts to hold accountable those criminal opportunists who sought to take advantage of a worldwide pandemic for their own personal gain.”
“The U.S. Secret Service remains committed to identifying, investigating, and pursuing those who defraud the PPP and EDIL programs, which were designed to assist employers severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Stephen S. Webster, United States Secret Service Resident Agent in Charge, Springfield Resident Office. “Programs such as these were established to help those in need, not benefit fraudsters. We are proud of our partnerships with the federal, state, and local agencies who work collectively to hold these individuals accountable for their actions.”
The United States Secret Service investigated the case, with assistance from the Springfield Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sarah E. Seberger represented the government in the prosecution.
COVID-19 disaster relief benefits are intended to help people and businesses suffering as a result of the pandemic. If members of the public suspect that anyone fraudulently obtained or misused benefits, they should contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NDCF) Hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or submit the NCDF Web Complaint Form. The NCDF is a national coordinating agency within the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division dedicated to improving the detection, prevention, investigation, and prosecution of criminal conduct related to natural and man-made disasters and other emergencies, such as the coronavirus (COVID-19). Hotline staff will obtain information regarding complaints, which will then be reviewed by law enforcement officials. More information is available at https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud.