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WASHINGTON – James Kyle Bell, 44, of Las Vegas, Nevada, was sentenced today to 46 months in prison for carrying out separate wide-ranging fraud schemes last year: one involving fundraising for fake political action committees (PACs) that he created, and the other involving COVID-19 relief funds he sought and received through fraudulent applications. He also must forfeit or pay back nearly $1.4 million in cash and assets.
The announcement was made by U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves, Wayne A. Jacobs, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office Criminal Division, and Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of the Inspector General, Eastern Region.
Bell registered two sham PACs with the Federal Election Commission. One, the “Keep America Great Committee,” purportedly supported Donald Trump. The other, the “Best Days Lie Ahead Committee,” purportedly supported Joseph Biden, Jr. He sought donations nationwide for both PACs using online platforms and e-mail solicitations, generating at least $346,000.
Additionally, Bell created multiple shell companies that he used to defraud the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which was created by Congress to provide financial assistance to Americans who suffered economic losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He applied for and won approval for more than $1.1 million in four separate loans. He also applied for a fifth loan for $521,625 but withdrew the application.
“This prosecution is the first in the District of Columbia involving the creation of scam political action committees,” said U.S. Attorney Graves. “It also is another in a series of prosecutions targeting frauds committed against the COVID relief efforts. The message is clear: along with our law enforcement partners, we will protect the public against fraudsters who seek to line their pockets by exploiting the political process and government programs.”
“Today’s sentencing should serve as yet another reminder to those who deceive and steal from hardworking Americans—you will ultimately be held to account for your actions,” said Special Agent in Charge Jacobs of the FBI Washington Field Office Criminal Division. “The FBI and its partners will continue to aggressively investigate those who perpetrate fraud schemes at the expense of the American people. Bell defrauded over 2,000 victims, who were all deceived into thinking they were making a donation to the presidential candidate of their choice, but in reality, that money was going to Bell’s personal accounts. Bell also defrauded the government through the Paycheck Protection Program, pocketing money meant for Americans in need.”
“Lying to gain access to SBA’s pandemic response programs is not without consequence,” said Special Agent in Charge Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite of the SBA’s Office of Inspector General, Eastern Region. “SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program is intended to provide assistance to the nation’s small businesses struggling with the pandemic challenges. I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office for its leadership and dedication to pursuing justice.”
Bell pleaded guilty in May 2021 to one count of wire fraud in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. He was sentenced by the Honorable John D. Bates. Following completion of his prison term, he will be placed on two years of supervised release.
According to the government’s evidence, between January 2020 and October 2020, Bell’s PACs sent solicitations nationwide to more than 40,000 recipients. The solicitations promised that individual donations would be “5x matched” by Bell’s PACs. The solicitations also replicated the look and feel of marketing materials used by the presidential campaigns, including official logos and slogans. Bell also set up websites to solicit donations with names like “keepamericagreatcommittee.com,” “trump2020maga.com,” and “bestdayslieaheadcommittee.com.” The sham PACs received more than $346,000 in contributions from individuals and other groups during the months before the 2020 election. However, none of the individual donations were ever “5X matched” by Bell or anyone else. Additionally, Bell made a series of false filings with the FEC in which Bell claimed that his PACs had made expenditures in support of both presidential campaigns.
During the same period, Bell applied for more than $1.6 million in PPP loans. For example, one of Bell’s companies, named “Echo Three LLC,” a company registered in Nevada with no employees and no payroll, received a PPP loan of $485,000 based on Bell’s false statements to the government that the company had 83 employees working at Bell’s private residence. In another instance, Bell obtained a PPP loan in the amount of $492,000 for a company he owned and controlled named “Myson Rules LLC” which had no employees, no payroll, no business operations, and no active business license in the State of Nevada. Bell submitted fabricated tax documents and other company records in support of all five PPP loan applications. He withdrew one application, for $521,625, before the loan could be funded.
Bell diverted almost all of the funds from PAC donors and the taxpayer-supported PPP loans to bank accounts where they could be used for Bell’s personal benefit, commingling the proceeds of the fraud and further violating federal campaign finance laws which require exacting record keeping for PACs. According to court papers, the government has located and seized $519,000 of Bell’s criminal proceeds. Bell’s plea agreement requires that Bell make full restitution to his victims and agree to the entry of a money judgement of $862,000 against him.
This matter was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and the U.S. Small Business Administration, Office of the Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorneys John W. Borchert and Elizabeth Aloi prosecuted this case.
On May 17, 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 fraud related to COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.