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Press Release

Rochester Man Sentenced to More Than 12 Years in Federal Prison for COVID-19 Fraud, Identify Theft, and Possession of Child Sexual Abuse Material

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Hampshire

          CONCORD – A Rochester man was sentenced today in federal court for submitting fraudulent applications for COVID-19 pandemic relief funds using stolen identities and for possessing child sexual abuse material (CSAM), U.S. Attorney Jane E. Young announces.

         Heath Gauthier, 48, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Laplante to 145 months in federal prison and 5 years of supervised release. He was ordered to pay $202,507 in restitution with $196,507 being paid to the Small Business Administration and $6,000 to two CSAM survivors.

         On February 22, 2024, Gauthier pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, one count of attempted wire fraud, one count of aggravated identity theft, and one count of possession of child pornography. 

         “The defendant possessed more than one thousand images of child sex abuse material and stole people’s identities to submit numerous fraudulent applications for COVID relief funds intended for individuals and businesses who suffered financial harm as a result of the pandemic,” said U.S. Attorney Jane E. Young. “The defendant not only stole of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars and undermined the public confidence in pandemic relief programs, but also preyed on the most vulnerable members of society-children. The sentence imposed today sends a clear message that those who possess child sex abuse material or steal from taxpayers will be incarcerated in federal prison for long periods of time.”

           “What Heath Gauthier did is disgraceful. This convicted sex offender possessed more than 1,500 images of child sexual abuse material on his computer and stole the identities of more than 10 dead people so he could blatantly defraud a government program meant to keep businesses and workers afloat during the pandemic,” said Jodi Cohen, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “Anyone who thinks exploiting children and defrauding American taxpayers is acceptable, better think twice, because the FBI and our partners stand ready to bring you to justice.”

          “Today’s sentencing of Heath Gauthier demonstrates the IRS’s commitment to protecting the America people from all criminal maleficence,” said Special Agent in Charge, Harry T. Chavis Jr., IRS Criminal Investigation Boston Field Office. “Gauthier not only stole the identities of innocent people in order to misappropriate pandemic relief funds, but he also took advantage of the most innocent people, children. IRS Criminal Investigations is committed to protecting all Americans, especially the most vulnerable, from those seeking to do them harm.” 

          Between February 2020 and March 2021, Gauthier fraudulently applied for more than a dozen loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) programs. Gauthier applied for loans for non-existent companies and used the identities of more than ten deceased individuals in his applications, listing them in some applications as owners or employees of the fictitious companies.  He also submitted false documents, including fabricated tax documents and counterfeit driver’s licenses to support his fraudulent applications.  In total Gauthier applied for more than $1 million in CARES Act loan funds.

          On February 16, 2023, investigators executed a search warrant on his residence, where they seized and later searched Gauthier’s electronic devices.  During the search, investigators discovered more than 1,500 files that contained CSAM.

          IRS Criminal Investigations and the Federal Bureau of Investigation led the investigation. Valuable assistance was provided by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and the Social Security Office of the Inspector General. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Matthew T. Hunter and Kasey Weiland prosecuted the case.  

          This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the DOJ’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit

            During the early part of the coronavirus pandemic, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.  The CARES Act included multiple relief provisions to help the millions of Americans and many small businesses adversely affected by the pandemic, including the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).  Private lenders could participate in the PPP.  The loans, which were supposed to be used for payroll, were fully guaranteed by the government.  If borrowers used the PPP loans for payroll and other approved expenses as intended, they could apply for loan forgiveness.  The CARES Act also opened up the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program.  As with PPP loans, EIDL loans were supposed to be used for payroll and other business expenses such as rent and mortgage.

            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

            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:



Updated June 28, 2024

Project Safe Childhood
Identity Theft
Press Release Number: 2024-231