Kanawha County Man Sentenced for COVID-19 Relief Fraud Scheme
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of West Virginia
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Tamir Pratt, 21, of Dunbar, was sentenced today to two years of federal probation and ordered to pay $7,833.99 in restitution for receipt of stolen money. Pratt admitted to a scheme to defraud the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) of $20,832 in COVID-19 relief loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).
According to court documents and statements made in court, Pratt applied for a PPP loan for his purported business, “Tamir Pratt,” in April 2021. Pratt admitted that “Tamir Pratt” was not in operation on February 15, 2020, though that was a requirement to qualify for a PPP loan, and he falsely certified that it was. Businesses applying for PPP loans were also required to provide documentation showing their prior gross income from either 2019 or 2020. Pratt admitted that he submitted a false IRS Form 1040, Schedule C, stating that “Tamir Pratt” had earned approximately $100,000 in gross income in 2020.
Pratt submitted the loan application electronically from West Virginia and it was uploaded to servers in Arizona for processing. Pratt’s loan application was approved and $20,832 was electronically transferred to his personal bank account on April 26, 2021. Pratt admitted that he withdrew $1,700 of the fraudulent loan proceeds in Charleston the same day and spent more than $460 of the proceeds.
The CARES Act, enacted in March 2020, offered emergency financial assistance to Americans suffering from the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This assistance included forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses through the PPP.
Pratt admitted that he did not spend the fraudulent loan proceeds on any permissible business expenses. Pratt further admitted that the SBA forgave his PPP loan on August 9, 2021. Of the $20,832 transferred to Pratt, $15,748.57 was recovered and returned to the SBA. The restitution amount includes $250.56 in loan interest and a $2,500 PPP fee paid by SBA to the lender that processed and underwrote Pratt’s loan application.
United States Attorney Will Thompson made the announcement and commended the investigative work of the United States Secret Service, the West Virginia State Police – Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), and the West Virginia State Auditor’s Office (WVSAO) Public Integrity and Fraud Unit (PIFU).
United States District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin imposed the sentence. Assistant United States Attorney Jonathan T. Storage prosecuted 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, 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.
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.
A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of West Virginia. Related court documents and information can be found on PACER by searching for Case No. 2:23-cr-38.
Updated November 16, 2023