Buffalo Man Going To Prison For COVID Relief Fraud
BUFFALO, N.Y. – U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross announced today that Christian Johnson, 25, of Buffalo, NY, who was convicted of wire fraud, was sentenced to serve 30 months in prison by U.S. District Judge John L. Sinatra, Jr.
Assistant U.S. Attorney David J. Rudroff, who handled the case, stated that Johnson submitted multiple fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program loan applications on behalf of a company called Million Man LLC (Million Man) to at least three financial institutions. The applications contained numerous false and misleading statements about Million Man’s business and operations, including the number of employees and average monthly payroll. Johnson submitted falsified federal tax documents and payroll records in support of the applications.
The CARES Act is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020, designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. One source of relief provided by the CARES Act was the authorization of up to $349 billion in forgivable loans, guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA), to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses, through the PPP. In April 2020, Congress authorized over $300 billion in additional PPP funding, and in December 2020, Congress authorized another $284 billion in additional funding.
The PPP allows qualifying small businesses and other organizations to receive loans with a maturity of two years and an interest rate of 1%. PPP loan proceeds must be used by businesses for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent and utilities. The PPP allows the interest and principal to be forgiven if businesses spend the proceeds on these expenses within a set time period and use at least a certain percentage of the loan towards payroll expenses.
This case was investigated by the FDIC-OIG, TIGTA-OIG, FBI, and SBA-OIG. Trial Attorneys Matthew Reilly and Jennifer Bilinkas of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney David J. Rudroff of the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Western District of New York are prosecuting the case.
The Fraud Section leads the Department’s prosecution of fraud schemes that exploit the PPP. In the nine months since the PPP began, Fraud Section attorneys have prosecuted more than 100 defendants in more than 70 criminal cases. The Fraud Section has also seized more than $60 million in cash proceeds derived from fraudulently obtained PPP funds, as well as numerous real estate properties and luxury items purchased with such proceeds. More information can be found at: https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/ppp-fraud.
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 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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