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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
District of Colorado

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, May 27, 2022

Highlands Ranch Man Sentenced to Federal Prison for Using COVID Relief Funds for Plastic Surgery, Weight Loss and Jewelry

DENVER – The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado announces that Daniel Stonebarger, age 50, of Highlands Ranch, was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison for fraudulently obtaining funds intended to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the plea agreement, between April 5, 2020 and June 10, 2020, the defendant submitted numerous fraudulent applications for Economic Injury Disaster Loans and Grants (EIDLs and EIDGs), and Paycheck Protection Program loans (PPP) through the Small Business Administration.  The defendant used new and existing business names to apply for these loans, and falsified creation dates of businesses, numbers of employees, revenues, and costs.  In total, the defendant fraudulently obtained $855,252.50 in EIDL, EIDG, and PPP funds.  The defendant also applied for Colorado Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. As a result of this fraudulent claim he was paid $28,142 by the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE). The defendant used these funds to pay for, among other things, plastic surgery for a relative, a weight loss program, bridal expenses, jewelry, a Peloton, travel, and resort expenses.

“This defendant took money that was supposed to be used to provide emergency financial assistance to small businesses and individuals suffering adverse economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Prosecuting pandemic fraud is a priority of the Department of Justice and an ongoing focus for investigators here in Colorado,” said U.S. Attorney Cole Finegan.

“This defendant was a criminal opportunist who took advantage of what he saw as easy money through programs created to keep businesses afloat during the pandemic,” said FBI Denver Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider. “This outcome is a reminder that the FBI aggressively pursues those who try to defraud the federal government.”

“We continue the pursuit of those who exploit taxpayer-funded relief programs for their own illicit gain,” said Marc DellaSala, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service Denver Field Office. “Along with partners at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, our unified law enforcement community has taken unprecedented measures to identify, locate, and arrest those responsible for pandemic-related fraud. I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for its tireless support of these efforts.”

“We created the Colorado Unemployment Fraud Task Force to investigate and prosecute those who steal critical pandemic-related government funds for personal gain. I am thankful and proud of the collaboration between the task force and the U.S. Attorney’s office that enabled us to bring this defendant to justice for defrauding the government. When the public is cheated, we are all cheated and we’ll continue to hold fraudsters accountable,” said Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser.

United States District Court Judge Raymond P. Moore sentenced the defendant on May 26, 2022 to 41 months in federal prison.  In addition to his prison sentence, the defendant was ordered to serve three years of supervised release.  He was also ordered to pay $794,462.08  in restitution to the SBA and $28,142 to the CDLE. The Court also issued a forfeiture money judgment in the amount of $822,794.50.  

The Denver Division of the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service, and the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment conducted the investigation.  Assistant United States Attorneys Martha A. Paluch, Sarah H. Weiss, and Tonya S. Andrews handled the prosecution of the case.

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 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 via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

Case number: 21-cr-00392-RM

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Topic(s): 
Asset Forfeiture
Coronavirus
Labor & Employment
Component(s): 
Contact: 
Deborah Takahara Public Affairs Specialist deborah.takahara@usdoj.gov
Updated May 27, 2022