Hilo Man Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Paycheck Protection and Disaster Loan Programs
HONOLULU – Carey Mills, 43, of Hilo, Hawaii pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson to a single-count Information, charging him with wire fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud the Government of program funds intended for Coronavirus-related relief. Sentencing is scheduled for October 4, 2022. Mills faces a maximum term of imprisonment of 30 years and a fine of up to $1,000,000.
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a federal loan program that is intended to help small businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic by providing them with funds to cover certain payroll costs, including benefits, interest on mortgages, rent and utilities. The Economic Injury Disaster Loan program (EIDL) provides low-interest loans and grants to small businesses that experience substantial financial disruptions due to federally-declared disasters, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to information presented in court, Mills submitted multiple applications for PPP and EIDL funds on behalf of three businesses under his control, Kanaka Maoli Hookupu Center, New Way Horizon Travel, and Uilani Kawailehua Foundation, each time utilizing interstate wires. To support the applications, Mills submitted fraudulent payroll documents and IRS forms, which included false employee and wage payment records. As a result of the false and fraudulent applications, Mills received $937,575 in the form of two forgivable PPP loans, one EIDL loan, and one EIDL grant to which he was not entitled.
“Congress funded the PPP and EIDL programs to provide a financial lifeline to struggling small businesses in Hawaii and across the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said U.S. Attorney Clare E. Connors. “Unfortunately, bad actors have targeted these critical assistance programs and fraudulently diverted much-needed resources. Our office will investigate all allegations of unlawful use of these funds and is committed to ensuring federal taxpayer dollars are used for their intended purpose.”
“The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration will aggressively pursue those who endeavor to defraud taxpayer-funded Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act programs, which were established to provide assistance to American business owners and their employees during these unprecedented times,” said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “We appreciate the efforts of the U.S. Department Justice and our law enforcement partners in this effort.”
The investigation was led by the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, with assistance from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of the Inspector General, the Small Business Administration Office of the Inspector General, and Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rebecca M. Perlmutter and Gregg Paris Yates handled the prosecution.
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.