Las Vegas Resident Sentenced To Prison For COVID-19 Relief Loan Scheme Committed While On Supervised Release
LAS VEGAS – A Nevada man was sentenced yesterday to two years and four months in prison for fraudulently obtaining over $500,000 in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program loans that the Small Business Administration (SBA) guaranteed under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and then laundering the money through family, friends, and others.
According to court documents, Brandon Casutt, 52, of Henderson, submitted multiple false and fraudulent applications to the SBA and four SBA lenders on behalf of two entities he controlled, seeking to fraudulently obtain more than $5.7 million. Two of Casutt’s fraudulent applications ultimately received funding: a PPP loan for approximately $350,000 in the name of a purported business called Sky DeSign, and an EIDL program loan for approximately $150,000 in the name of a purported charity called Skyler’s CF Foundation. While the loan applications affirmed falsely that each entity had numerous employees, significant payroll expenses, and substantial revenue, neither entity had employees nor paid any wages.
After receiving the PPP money, Casutt laundered it by writing dozens of fake payroll checks – each in the amount of approximately $8,330 – to himself, family members, and friends. On many of the checks, Casutt falsely wrote “pandemic pay” or “back pay” in the check memo. Casutt cashed or deposited these fake paychecks. Then, within days and at Casutt’s direction, the money was diverted back to a bank account under Casutt’s control. Casutt then used the money to buy a house in Henderson.
On Aug. 26, 2020, Casutt pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of concealment money laundering.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Jason M. Frierson for the District of Nevada, Special Agent in Charge Al Childress of the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Phoenix Field Office, and Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division made the announcement.
IRS-CI and the FBI Las Vegas Field Office investigated the case.
Trial Attorney Sara Hallmark and Assistant Chief Cory E. Jacobs of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and former Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric C. Schmale for the District of Nevada prosecuted the case, with assistance from Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jessica Oliva and Daniel Hollingsworth for the District of Nevada.
In May 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 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 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 via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
The Fraud Section leads the Criminal Division’s prosecution of fraud schemes that exploit the PPP. Since the inception of the CARES Act, the Fraud Section has prosecuted over 200 defendants in more than 130 criminal cases and has seized over $78 million in cash proceeds derived from fraudulently obtained PPP funds, as well as numerous real estate properties and luxury items purchased with such proceeds. More information can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/ppp-fraud.