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Press Release

Clovis Businessman Sentenced to Prison for $1.4 Million COVID-19 Relief Money Theft

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California

FRESNO, Calif. — Ruben Mireles, 48, of Clovis, was sentenced today to one year in prison for stealing $1.4 million in COVID-19 relief money, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

According to court documents, Mireles owned and operated a farm labor contracting business in Kings County. His business initially went by the name Vista Pacific Labor Solutions Inc. (VPLS) and then changed its name to Calzona Ag Management Inc., doing business as Vista Pacific Farm Management (CAM).

In January 2021, after VPLS changed its name to CAM, Mireles caused CAM to apply for and receive a COVID-19 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan for $1.4 million from the Small Business Administration (SBA). Then, in April 2021, Mireles caused VPLS to apply for and receive another PPP loan for $1.4 million from the SBA based on false information.

In the second loan application, Mireles falsely represented to the SBA that VPLS was a separate company from CAM when, in fact, VPLS and CAM were the same company. Mireles also falsely represented that he had not received any other PPP loans, even though he had previously received CAM’s loan. Finally, Mireles falsely represented that he was not subject to any pending criminal charges when he was actually facing state fraud charges.

Based on Mireles’ representations, VPLS’s loan application was approved and the $1.4 million, to which he was not entitled, was deposited into his bank account.

This case was the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the SBA Office of Inspector General with assistance from the California Department of Insurance. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Barton prosecuted the case.

This effort is part of a California COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Strike Force operation, one of five interagency COVID-19 fraud strike force teams established by the U.S. Department of Justice. The California Strike Force combines law enforcement and prosecutorial resources in the Eastern and Central Districts of California and focuses on large-scale, multistate pandemic relief fraud perpetrated by criminal organizations and transnational actors. The strike forces use prosecutor-led and data analyst-driven teams to identify and bring to justice those who stole pandemic relief funds.

Updated April 29, 2024

Financial Fraud