MONROE, La. - United States Attorney Brandon B. Brown announced that Michael Ansezell Tolliver, 57, of Monroe, Louisiana, appeared before United States District Judge Terry A. Doughty yesterday and pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering.
In March 2020 Congress enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act which was designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who were suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of the CARES Act, the Small Business Administration (SBA) provided Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL), which were low-interest financing to small businesses, renters and homeowners in regions affected by declared disasters. The CARES Act also provided authorization of up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses, through a program referred to as the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”).
According to evidence presented in court, Tolliver devised a scheme to defraud the SBA and various financial institutions by falsifying PPP and EIDL Program loan applications and other documents to fraudulently obtain funds through these programs. Tolliver submitted these documents in the name of Tolliver Oil & Gas and provided false and fraudulent information specifically related to the number of employees and average monthly payroll of the company.
On or about May 14, 2020, Tolliver electronically submitted a false and fraudulent PPP application to “Bank 3” in the name of Tolliver Oil & Gas seeking approximately $664,724 in PPP funds. In the PPP application, Tolliver certified that the funds would be used “to retain workers and maintain payroll.” Tolliver falsely represented that the company had 108 employees and that its average monthly payroll was $265,889.60 and even submitted a fake IRS Form 940 for 2019. Tolliver signed the PPP application and certified that the application and all information provided in it were true and accurate. When in truth and in fact, Tolliver knew that Tolliver Oil & Gas had no employees or monthly payroll expenses. Thereafter, on or about May 21, 2020, Bank 3 disbursed approximately $664,724 in loan benefits to an account held by Tolliver at “Bank 1.” Using these and other funds, Tolliver made payments on vehicles and other items, including a 2020 Cadillac CT5, 2021 GMC Sierra 1500, two Tissot watches, two Tag Heuer watches, two 2021 Honda Rubicon ATVs, and one 2021 Honda Pioneer ATV.
After receiving the $664,724 in fraudulent acquired PPP loan benefits, Tolliver withdrew approximately $500,065 of those funds in the form of a cashier’s check on June 25, 2020, knowing that the funds were derived from unlawful activity, and deposited them into an account at yet another bank held by Tolliver.
Tolliver faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentencing has been scheduled for May 2, 2023.
The case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation and Small Business Administration – Office of Inspector General. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth D. Reeg of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Louisiana and Assistant Chief Justin M. Woodard of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section of the Department of Justice.
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 of Justice’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.
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