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Press Release

Charlotte Business Owner Is Sentenced To Prison For $720,000 COVID-19 Relief Fraud

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Western District of North Carolina
To Date, 28 Individuals Have Been Prosecuted for COVID-19 Fraud Schemes

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Evan Agustin Perez, 35, of Charlotte, was sentenced today to 24 months in prison followed by two years of supervised release for obtaining approximately $720,000 in fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Relief Disaster Loan Program (EIDL) loans guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, announced Dena J. King, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. In addition to the prison term imposed, Perez was ordered to pay $720,079.82 in restitution to the SBA.

According to court documents and court proceedings, from April 2020 to September 2021, Perez conspired with Edward Whitaker and others in a scheme to defraud the SBA and SBA-backed lenders by obtaining fraudulent COVID-19 disaster relief funds for businesses he controlled or was affiliated with, including Augie’s Wish Foundation; EMP Haircare, LLC; E.M.P. Enterprises, LLC; T.O.P. Salon Suites Inc.; Touch of Precision School of Barbering, Inc.; Touch of Precision Barber Lounge, LLC; and Roads to Success Early Learning Center, LLC. Court documents show that, at the time, Whitaker operated a sham business in Texas known as “Loan Starters,” that assisted people with committing fraud through the creation of fraudulent PPP loan applications and fake supporting documents.

According to court records, Whitaker assisted Perez in preparing and submitting numerous fraudulent applications for coronavirus aid relief loans that contained fabricated information. For example, when he applied for PPP loans, Perez routinely fabricated the number of employees working for his businesses and inflated associated payroll costs, which allowed him to obtain larger PPP loans. Also, with Whitaker’s help, Perez supported the sham PPP applications by submitting fabricated tax documents that contained fraudulent information, including IRS Form 940, Form 941, and Form 1040 Schedule C, that falsely corroborated the inflated monthly payroll disbursements. 

As a result of the scheme, Perez received approximately $720,000 in disaster relief funds. Instead of using the money to support his businesses, Perez used the funds for unauthorized purposes and to pay Whitaker for his services. According to court records, after Perez received the relief funds, he then submitted fraudulent loan forgiveness applications for certain PPP loans that also contained fabricated information.

On September 27, 2023, Perez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. He will be ordered to report to the federal Bureau of Prisons upon designation of a federal facility.

In January 2023, Whitaker pleaded guilty in federal court in the Eastern District of North Carolina to money laundering conspiracy for his role in assisting individuals with obtaining fraudulent coronavirus disaster relief funds.

The SBA’s Office of Inspector General investigated the case. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric A. Frick and Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Ryan prosecuted the case.

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To date, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of North Carolina has prosecuted 28 individuals for defrauding government funding programs, such as the Unemployment Insurance benefit program, the PPP program, and the EIDL program, that were created or expanded during the pandemic to provide economic relief. These prosecutions have resulted in active prison sentences and the imposition of court-ordered restitution, fees, and fines.

“As the COVID-19 outbreak gripped our nation, the federal government provided emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans and businesses suffering the economic effects of COVID-19,” said U.S. Attorney King. “My Office will continue to partner with agencies across the federal government to combat pandemic-related fraud and bring to justice criminal actors who took advantage of a national emergency to line their own pockets.”

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

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Updated February 21, 2024

Financial Fraud