Kissimmee Man Pleads Guilty To COVID Relief Fraud Charges
Ocala, Florida – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces Levelle Joseph Harris (36, Kissimmee) has entered a guilty plea to an indictment charging him with 14 counts of wire fraud. Each count is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine. Harris had been indicted on June 7, 2022.
According to the court records, between May 27, 2020, and June 2, 2021, Harris applied for 14 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act using false information. As part of Harris’s scheme to defraud, he electronically submitted applications for the PPP loans over the internet, made false representations on his PPP applications, and received proceeds from the loans through wire transfers over the internet. Harris also provided fake supporting documentation for his loan applications. Once his fraudulent applications were approved, he received over $1 million in internet wire transfers that were supposed to be used to cover payroll, fixed debts, utilities, rent/mortgage, accounts payable and other bills. Instead, Harris used the money for his personal expenses.
This case is being prosecuted as part the Department of Justice’s prosecution of fraud schemes that exploit the CARES Act relief programs. The CARES Act is a federal law enacted in March 2020, designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the two programs that were developed through CARES Act is the PPP. It provides funding to businesses through PPP loans for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent and utilities. PPP allows the interest and principal on loans to be forgiven if the business spends proceeds on certain expense items within a designated time and uses a certain percentage of the loan on payroll expenses. The Department of Justice remains vigilant in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting wrongdoing related to the crisis.
This case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Hannah Nowalk.