Baltimore, Maryland – U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett sentenced Reginald Alphonso Hopkins, age 52, of Prince George’s County, Maryland, today to two years in federal prison, followed by one year of home confinement as part of three years of supervised release, for a wire fraud conspiracy relating to the submission of fraudulent claims for the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) benefits under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act. The CARES Act was a federal law enacted in March 2020 to provide emergency financial assistance to Americans suffering from the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The sentence was announced by Erek L. Barron, United States Attorney for the District of Maryland and Acting Special Agent in Charge R. Joseph Rothrock of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office.
Financial assistance offered through the CARES Act included forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses, through the Paycheck Protection Program, administered through the Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA also offered an Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and/or an EIDL advance to help businesses meet their financial obligations. An EIDL advance did not have to be repaid, and small businesses could receive an advance, even if they were not approved for an EIDL loan. The maximum advance amount was $10,000.
According to his plea agreement, Hopkins fraudulently obtained $1,007,224 in PPP funds and $9,000 in Economic Injury Disaster Loan funds for various purported businesses he controlled—a transportation business, a car sales business, and an assisted living facility. He also attempted to fraudulently obtain more than $3,132,224 in PPP and EIDL funds.
As detailed in the statement of facts submitted as part of the plea agreement, between June 11, 2020 and March 23, 2021, Hopkins, with the assistance of a co-conspirator submitted fraudulent PPP loan applications for Prestige Executive Transportation, Prestige 24/7 Auto Sales & Services LLC (“Prestige 24/7”), and Prestige Assisted Living Inc. (“Prestige Assisted Living”), all businesses owned by Hopkins. Each loan application contained multiple material misrepresentations, including as to the number of employees and average monthly payroll. Fabricated IRS tax forms and bank records were also submitted in support of the loan applications. In fact, IRS tax records reveal that none of the companies reported paying wages to any employees.
Based on the fraudulent submissions, the PPP loans were funded. Approximately $291,090 was distributed to Prestige Transportation’s bank account; approximately $294,771 was distributed to Prestige 24/7’s bank account; and approximately $421,363 was distributed to Prestige Assisted Living’s bank account. All the bank accounts were controlled by Hopkins. Hopkins agreed to pay the co-conspirator a kickback payment for his work in submitting the false applications. Hopkins provided the co-conspirator: a check for $58,000, approximately 20 percent of the PPP loan amount for the Prestige Executive Transportation loan; eight checks totaling $75,000 or 25 percent of the Prestige 24/7 loan; and five checks totaling $44,000 or approximately 10.5 percent of the Prestige Assisted Living loan.
Hopkins admitted that he spent the fraudulently obtained loan proceeds in various ways unrelated to job retention or other business expenses, including the $177,000 in kickbacks paid to the co-conspirator, providing PPP funds to various friends, family members, making large cash withdrawals for himself, and paying off various personal debts. Hopkins also used $30,000 of the PPP funds to purchase an auto body repair shop called B&G Auto Repair LLC, for which he planned to obtain a fraudulent PPP loan.
In addition to obtaining the PPP loans discussed above, Hopkins also conspired with the co-conspirator to fraudulently obtain PPP loans for various other purported businesses, including Prestige Executive Protection Services, LLC, Prestige Paradise Promotions, LLC, Prestige Executive Protection Services II, LLC, Prestige Real Estate & Development, LLC, and B&G Auto Repair LLC. Hopkins repeatedly sought the co-conspirator’s assistance in obtaining PPP loans for these entities, but the loans never closed.
Hopkins further admitted that he caused to be submitted numerous fraudulent EIDL applications, including for Prestige Executive Transportation and Prestige Executive Protection Services II. Both of those loans, as well as others, were ultimately declined, but Hopkins received an EIDL advance of $5,000 and $4,000, for Prestige Executive Transportation and Prestige Executive Protection Services II, respectively.
The District of Maryland Strike Force is one of five strike forces established throughout the United States by the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute COVID-19 fraud, including fraud relating to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act. The CARES Act was designed to provide emergency financial assistance to Americans suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The strike forces focus on large-scale, multi-state pandemic relief fraud perpetrated by criminal organizations and transnational actors. The strike forces are interagency law enforcement efforts, using prosecutor-led and data analyst-driven teams designed to identify and bring to justice those who stole pandemic relief funds.
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.
United States Attorney Erek L. Barron commended the FBI for their work in the investigation and thanked the Baltimore County Police Department and the U.S. Small Business Administration – Office of Inspector General (“SBA-OIG”). Mr. Barron thanked Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Riley, who prosecuted the federal case. Mr. Barron also recognized the assistance of the Maryland COVID-19 Strike Force Paralegal Specialist Joanna Huber.
For more information on the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and resources available to help the community, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-md and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/community-outreach.
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