Portland Man Pleads Guilty to Fraud Charges After Stealing Covid-Relief Funds
PORTLAND, Ore.—A Portland man pleaded guilty today for perpetrating a scheme to steal funds intended to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eric Wade Lysne, 35, pleaded guilty to bank and wire fraud.
According to court documents, in April 2020, Lysne devised and perpetrated a scheme to defraud the Small Business Administration (SBA) and various financial institutions by fraudulently applying for and obtaining Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans using false borrower information. Lysne created fictitious entities, including Paradigm Consulting Groups (Paradigm), on whose behalf he applied for and received the loans.
In May 2020, Lysne applied for an EIDL, falsely claiming Paradigm employed 10 individuals in the agriculture sector and grossed nearly $1 million for the twelve-month period ending in January 2020. Lysne also falsely claimed that he, as the applicant, had not been convicted of any felonies in the last five years when, in fact, he had been in prison for nearly a year following a May 2019 felony conviction in Washington County, Oregon, and was then on post-prison supervision.
In early June 2020, SBA disbursed a $147,400 EIDL to Paradigm through Lysne’s personal bank account. The deposit was followed by an additional $10,000 advance paid several weeks later. After receiving the funds, Lysne spent them on various personal expenses, including travel bookings and numerous cash withdrawals.
In April 2021, Lysne applied for an increase in his EIDL balance, seeking to borrow an additional $302,600. The application was pending when Lysne was indicted in May 2021. Around the same time, Lysne also applied for a $50,000 PPP loan on Paradigm’s behalf from a bank in Logan, Utah. In the application, Lysne again falsely claimed he had not been convicted of any recent felonies. He further falsely represented that Paradigm employed two individuals and had an average monthly payroll of $20,000. Based on Lysne’s fraudulent misrepresentations, the bank approved the loan application in part and disbursed a $27,700 loan to Lysne.
On May 19, 2021, a federal grand jury in Portland returned a two-count indictment charging Lysne with bank fraud and wire fraud.
Wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or twice a defendant’s gross gains or the victim’s losses, and three years’ supervised release. Bank fraud is punishable by up to 30 years in prison, a $1 million fine, and five year’s supervised release.
Lysne will be sentenced on February 1, 2022 before U.S. District Court Judge Michael H. Simon.
As part of his plea agreement, Lysne has agreed to pay $360,467 in restitution to SBA and forfeit $185,100 seized by law enforcement.
This case was investigated by the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), the SBA Office of Inspector General, and the FBI. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan W. Bounds is prosecuting the case.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020, designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. One source of relief provided by the CARES Act was the authorization of up to $349 billion in forgivable PPP loans to small businesses for job retention and other expenses. In April 2020, Congress authorized over $300 billion in additional PPP funding.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Justice Department’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.