MIAMI – A federal magistrate judge in Fort Lauderdale has unsealed an indictment today charging Carl Henry Charles, 43, of Miramar, Fla., and Patrick Charles, 41, of Lake Worth, Fla., for fraudulently obtaining millions of dollars in COVID-19 pandemic relief loans and advances from the Small Business Administration (SBA) through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program.
According to the indictment, from March 2020 through December 2021, Carl Charles and his brother, Patrick Charles, submitted applications to the SBA for EIDL program loans seeking nearly $5 million for purported businesses that did not exist before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and did not have any revenue or other business activity. As a result of the false and fraudulent applications, the SBA disbursed approximately $2.5 million in loan proceeds and advances to the defendants, who in turn used the funds to enrich themselves and others.
The indictment charges each defendant with multiple counts of wire fraud. If convicted, Carl Charles faces up to 80 years in prison and Patrick Charles faces up to 60 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida; Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey B. Veltri of the FBI, Miami Field Office; Special Agent in Charge Mark H. Morini Jr. of the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), Southern Field Division; and Special Agent in Charge Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite, U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General (SBA-OIG), Investigations Division’s Eastern Region, made the announcement.
FBI Miami, TIGTA, and SBA-OIG investigated the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney David Snider for the Southern District of Florida and Trial Attorneys Samad Pardesi and Ariel Glasner of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting it. Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Stone is handling asset forfeiture.
An indictment contains mere allegations, and all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
In March 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act was enacted. It was designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Among other sources of relief, the CARES Act authorized and provided funding to the SBA to provide Economic Injury Disaster Loans (“EIDLs”) to eligible small businesses, including sole proprietorships and independent contractors, experiencing substantial financial disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic to allow them to meet financial obligations and operating expenses that could otherwise have been met had the disaster not occurred. EIDL applications were submitted directly to the SBA via the SBA’s on-line application website, and the applications were processed and the loans funded for qualifying applicants directly by the SBA.
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 more 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. The Strike Force combines law enforcement and prosecutorial resources and focuses on large-scale, multistate pandemic relief fraud perpetrated by criminal organizations and transnational actors, as well as those who committed multiple instances of pandemic relief fraud. The Strike Force uses prosecutor-led and data analyst-driven teams to identify and bring to justice those who stole pandemic relief funds. 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.
Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or at http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov under case number 23-cr-60072.