Helena man admits bank fraud in scheme for $1 million in COVID-19 relief loans
GREAT FALLS — A Helena man admitted to crimes today stemming from a scheme to defraud a bank of more than $1 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and to using the funds instead for his personal benefit, U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson said today.
Trevor Gene Lanius-McLeod, 48, also known as Trevor Gene McLeod, pleaded guilty to bank fraud and to engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity. Lanius-McLeod faces a maximum of 30 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release on the bank fraud crime.
In a plea agreement filed in the case, the parties agreed that if the court accepts the plea agreement at sentencing, the government will seek dismissal of nine other counts charged in an indictment.
Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided. Chief Judge Morris set sentencing for April 21. Lanius-McLeod was released pending further proceedings.
The government alleged in court documents that in April 2021, Lanius-McLeod applied for four PPP loans through Valley Bank of Helena, a division of Glacier Bank, and lied on the applications and accompanying documentation. As a result, Lanius-McLeod received $1,043,000 in fraudulent funds from the four loans. The PPP program provided emergency assistance to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses.
As part of the scheme, Lanius-McLeod applied for and received a PPP loan for $340,000 on behalf of Renovated Montana Properties LLP, an entity he controlled. Without several false statements, Lanius-McLeod would not have qualified for this loan. Lanius-McLeod falsely stated that the company had paid payroll taxes and had 25 employees. The company had never paid payroll taxes and did not have employees besides Lanius-McLeod, although it sometimes employed independent contractors. Lanius-McLeod agreed in a promissory note to use the loan for payroll costs and other business-related expenses. None of the loan was used for these purposes. Instead, Lanius-McLeod used the loan for personal expenses, including to pay the mortgage on his personal residence.
Co-defendant Kasey Jones Wilson of Laurel pleaded guilty to bank fraud and is awaiting sentencing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Colin M. Rubich is prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the IRS-Criminal Investigation and FBI, with assistance from the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and U.S. Secret Service.
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.