EVANSVILLE- Robert K. Hall, 73, of Bloomington, Indiana, has been sentenced to 41 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
According to court documents, from September 2019 to December 2020, Hall conspired with others to defraud multiple businesses through business email compromise schemes, and to defraud multiple states and the Small Business Administration by taking advantage of COVID-19 loan and unemployment programs. Hall also worked with his co-conspirators to launder the stolen money through his bank accounts.
In September 2019, an employee of Victim Business 1 received a fraudulent email purporting to be a recognized vendor that the business previously worked with. The purported vendor explained that due to an audit involving its’ primary bank account, future payments should be made to a different account. The account that was named belonged to Hall under the guise of an electric company. This fraudulent email caused Business 1 to unknowingly transfer $113,550 into Hall’s personal account.
In July 2020, following the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), a fraudulent application was submitted to the Small Business Administration for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan without the knowledge or consent of the purported beneficiaries. Instead, the proceeds of the loans were deposited into an account controlled by Hall. Hall conducted a similar scheme when his co-conspirators fraudulently applied for three Economic Injury Disaster Loans using the names of an individual and two businesses, directing benefits to again be deposited into Hall’s personal accounts.
Additionally, between May 2020 and December 2020, applications for unemployment benefits were submitted to the states of Washington, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Ohio, Colorado, and Arizona on behalf of more than a dozen individuals whose identities had been stolen. The unemployment benefits were deposited into accounts controlled by Hall and then disbursed to his co-conspirators.
After receiving the fraudulent deposits in his accounts, Hall retained roughly 20% of the funds as compensation for his role in the schemes. He transferred the remaining money to his co-conspirators via checks and Bitcoin purchases.
In total, Hall attempted to steal $668,746.14. Some of the fraudulent transactions were blocked or reversed, and Hall only successfully received $399,868.36 in proceeds of the fraud schemes.
“This defendant played a critical role in multiple fraud schemes, including stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from vital relief programs created to support individuals and businesses in the midst of a global pandemic,” said Zachary A. Myers, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Indiana. “We will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute those who defrauded COIVD-19 relief programs. My thanks to the U.S. Secret Service and our prosecutors for their efforts to hold fraudsters accountable and recover money stolen from the American public during this unprecedented crises.”
“Hall and his co-conspirators took advantage of government programs intended to assist small businesses and individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jeffrey R. Adams, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service Indianapolis Field Office. “The Secret Service remains committed to aggressively pursuing fraudsters who target the financial infrastructure of the United States."
The case was investigated by the U.S. Secret Service. The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Court Judge Richard L. Young. Judge Young also ordered that Hall be supervised by the U.S. Probation Office for 3 years following his release from federal prison.
U.S. Attorney Myers thanked Assistant United States Attorney Matthew B. Miller, who prosecuted this 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.
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.