Nevada Man Pleads Guilty For COVID-19 Relief Fraud Scheme And Money Laundering
LAS VEGAS – A Henderson, Nev., resident pleaded guilty today to fraudulently obtaining over $500,000 in loans under the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, and then laundering the funds through family and friends to buy a house.
Brandon Casutt (51) pleaded guilty to wire fraud and concealment money laundering. U.S. District Judge Andrew P. Gordon scheduled sentencing for January 17, 2023. Casutt faces a total maximum statutory penalty of 40 years in prison.
According to court documents and admissions made in court, Casutt submitted fraudulent PPP loan applications to federally insured banks and EIDL applications to the SBA. The SBA guarantees the loans for COVID-19 relief through the PPP under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The CARES Act also authorizes the SBA to provide an EIDL of up to $2 million to eligible small businesses experiencing financial disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
From April 2020 through July 2020, Casutt submitted at least 11 fraudulent PPP and EIDL loan applications, intending to obtain more than $5.7 million, on behalf of two entities he controlled. Two of these fraudulent applications actually received funding: (1) a PPP loan for approximately $350,000 in the name of a business called Sky DeSign; and (2) an EIDL for approximately $150,000 in the name of a charity called Skyler’s C.F. Foundation. The loan applications indicated that each entity had numerous employees, significant payroll expenses, and substantial revenue; however, the entities had few if any employees, paid little or no wages, and had little if any revenues.
After receiving the PPP funds, Casutt then laundered the proceeds by writing a series of fictitious payroll checks. From approximately May 18, 2020, to June 18, 2020, the Casutt wrote dozens of checks, each in the amount of $8,330, from the bank account holding the PPP loan to himself, family members, and friends. On many of the checks, he falsely wrote “pandemic pay” or “back pay” in the check memo. These fictitious paychecks were cashed or deposited, and then, within days, Casutt had the funds diverted to a bank account in the name of Skyler’s C.F. Foundation. Casutt then used the PPP funds, along with the EIDL funds, to purchase a $400,000 house in Henderson, into which he and his family moved in June 2020.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department's Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Jason M. Frierson of the District of Nevada; Special Agent in Charge Albert Childress of the IRS Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI); and Special Agent in Charge Spencer L. Evans of the FBI made the announcement.
This case was investigated by the IRS-CI and FBI. Trial Attorney Sara Hallmark of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Schmale of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nevada are prosecuting the case.
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, 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 via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.