Kissimmee Man Sentenced To Federal Prison For COVID Relief Fraud Offenses
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Middle District of Florida
Ocala, Florida – Senior United States District Judge Gregory A. Presnell has sentenced Levelle Joseph Harris (36, Kissimmee) to 27 months in federal prison for wire fraud. The court also ordered the forfeiture of $1,283,029.81, which represents the proceeds Harris obtained from his wire fraud offenses. Harris had pleaded guilty on September 21, 2022.
According to 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, 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. Harris also provided fake supporting documentation for his loan applications. Harris received $1,283,029.81 that was supposed to be used to cover payroll, fixed debts, utilities, rent/mortgage, accounts payable and other bills. Instead, Harris used the money to buy a new car and investment properties.
This case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Hannah Nowalk.
This case was 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.
Updated January 23, 2023