Chesterland Man Sentenced to Prison and Ordered to Pay Restitution for COVID-19 Relief Fraud
Acting U.S. Attorney Michelle M. Baeppler announced that Robert Bearden, 49, of Chesterland, Ohio, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Donald C. Nugent to one year in prison and ordered to pay $62,296.70 in restitution after Bearden pleaded guilty to COVID-19 relief fraud.
According to court documents, in July of 2020, Bearden devised a scheme to fraudulently obtain approximately $60,000 in Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
As part of the scheme, Bearden submitted three fraudulent EIDL loan applications through the SBA’s online application portal, which were approved for a total of approximately $60,000 in funds disbursed. On applications Bearden submitted, he used false information about existing and non-existing businesses and the name of third parties in return for a kickback of a portion of the funds received. Bearden also used the personal identifying information of persons interested in obtaining government pandemic assistance to submit loan applications on their behalf, but directing the funds into his own account, including one of the three loans that was approved.
Acting United States Attorney Michelle M. Baepller, FBI Special Agent in Charge Eric B. Smith and Bryant Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, IRS CI, Cincinnati Field Office made the announcement.
This case was investigated by the FBI and IRS – Criminal Investigations. This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Elliot D. Morrison and Brian M. McDonough.
In May 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the department 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.