Attorney Derek Acree Sentenced to Prison for $1.6 Million COVID-19 Relief Fraud
MIAMI – Derek James Acree, 47, of Palm Beach County, Fla., was sentenced today to 41 months in prison for submitting fraudulent loan applications seeking more than $1.6 million in forgivable Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. These loans are guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
Acree obtained approximately $1.6 million by submitting fraudulent EIDL and PPP loan applications for companies he owned either in whole or in part. These companies included National Financial Holdings Inc., NFH Florida LLC, DBA Finova Financial LLC, and National Financial Holding Technology LLC. The loans misrepresented the number of employees, payroll expenses, and gross revenues.
After obtaining the fraudulent loan proceeds, Acree transferred some of it to others and a portion was used as a down payment for the purchase of his home, as well as used to purchase jewelry, travel, and make repairs on his boat/home.
Acree had entered a guilty plea to conspiracy to commit wire fraud in October 2022. In addition to prison, he was ordered to pay $1.26 million in restitution and $1.6 million in asset forfeiture.
Juan Antonio Gonzalez, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; and Special Agent in Charge Robert M. Dewitt, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, made the announcement.
FBI West Palm Beach investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robin W. Waugh prosecuted it and Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Pastor handled asset forfeiture.
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 information on the department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
On September 15, 2022, the Attorney General selected the Southern District of Florida’s U.S. Attorney’s Office to head one of three national COVID-19 Fraud Strike Force Teams. The Department of Justice established the Strike Force to enhance existing efforts to combat and prevent COVID-19 related financial fraud. For more information on the department’s response to the pandemic, please click here.
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 https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.