Former Warren County Businessman Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Fraudulently Obtaining $1.8 Million in COVID-19 Loans Meant for Small Businesses
NEWARK, N.J. – An Atlantic County, New Jersey, construction company and one of its owners entered into a settlement agreement with the United States in which they admitted violating the False Claims Act by taking a loan from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to which the company was not entitled, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced today.
According to admissions and the contentions of the United States contained in the settlement agreement:
Congress created the PPP in March 2020, as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, to provide emergency financial support to the millions of Americans suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act authorized billions of dollars in forgivable loans to small businesses struggling to pay employees and other business expenses.
Christopher Construction Company Inc. (the “Company”) and one of its owners, Dennis Christopher, applied for and received a PPP loan totaling $255,507. Christopher, on behalf of the Company, falsely certified in the PPP application that neither the Company nor any individual owning 20 percent or more of its equity was subject to an indictment or other criminal charges. When he completed the application, however, Christopher knew that another owner of the Company was subject to a criminal indictment. Christopher’s false certification on the application caused a bank to approve a PPP loan and caused the Small Business Administration (SBA) to pay a loan processing fee to the lender and to guarantee the loan through the PPP.
Prior to entering into the settlement agreement, the Company repaid the PPP loan balance in full, relieving the SBA of any liability to the lender. The Company and Christopher agreed to pay $53,325 in damages and civil penalties. The settlement with the Company and Dennis Christopher resolves a lawsuit filed under the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act, which permits private parties to file suit on behalf of the United States for false claims and share in a portion of the government’s recovery.
The resolution obtained in this matter was the result of a coordinated effort between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, Fraud Section. U.S. Attorney Sellinger also credited special agents of the SBA - Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite, with the investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney David V. Simunovich of the Government Fraud Unit in Newark.
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 Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
The qui tam case is captioned United States ex rel. Pat L. Christopher v. Christopher Construction Company, Inc., et al., Civil Action No. 20-7500 (D.N.J.)