Some $800 billion was issued to help keep America’s workforce employed during quarantine, but not everyone who asked for help was trying to keep a legitimate business afloat. From April, 178 Americans have been convicted by the Department of Justice for fraudulently accepting Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. And by NBCthat’s just a tiny percentage of those who cheated the government out of $80 billion in taxpayers’ money, or about 10% of the total program.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian Rabbitt Split criminals and wrongdoers into two distinct categories: on the one hand, there are “coordinated criminal networks that engaged in systematic and organized conduct to loot the PPP”; on the other are the “individuals – or small groups – who lied about having legitimate businesses, or claimed they needed PPP money for things like paying their workers, but instead used it to buy splashy luxury items for themselves”.
On that last point, the DOJ continues to pursue people who they believe ripped off the government into funding their shopping sprees and gambling adventures. Below are just a few of those cases, including some defendants who have been charged and are awaiting trial, and others who have been convicted and have already handed over the keys to their new Lamborghinis.
Looks like Baby Blue from Pretty Ricky, who once glanced at fame on Love and hip-hop: Miami, viewed federal PPP payouts as a way to make a quick buck. In fact, the DOJ claims that when his first app did so well — and all that free money appeared in his bank account — he immediately came back within seconds. According to the DOJ, Baby Blue is “alleged to have obtained a PPP loan of $426,717 for his company, Throwbackjersey.com LLC, using forged documents”. After that, he “searched for and obtained another PPP loan of $708,065 for his other company, Blue Star Records LLC, using forged documents”.
He’s definitely gone a long way with this new money. DOJ says Baby Blue bought a Ferrari for $96,000 and spent $27,000 at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. At one point, he also took the time to drop “$2,290 worth of goods at Versace” to upgrade his drip.
In the end, baby blue pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 20 months in prison.
Keyaira Bostic, 31, of Pembroke Pines, Fla., not only secured a big PPP loan for herself, but also met her friends and family. The DOJ claims that Bostic was part of a circle of nine people who all have “was part of a massive nationwide scheme to file at least 90 fraudulent claims for millions of dollars in PPP loans in exchange for illegal kickbacks of some of the loan proceeds.”
She was sure she would never get caught. She even told friends she was part of the scheme that, unlike those other con artists who get busted, she knew how to fly under the government’s radar. In the criminal complaint against herthe feds noted that Bolstic had sent a friend a link to an article about PPP fraud charges against a reality TV star: “[Wh]what he did and the amount was a huge red flag.
In February, however, Bostic was sentenced to 44 months in federal prison for defrauding the PPP of more than $3.3 million. Obviously, she missed a few red flags of her own.
Former NFL player Josh Bellamy happened to be part of the same fraud ring as Bostic. The 31-year-old player has received a PPP loan of $1,246,565 for his own company, Drip Entertainment LLC. Bellamy quickly went shopping, during which he “purchased over $104,000 worth of luxury goods…including purchases at Dior, Gucci and jewelers.” And he, too, squandered at least $62,000 more at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. In December, Bellamy was sentenced over three years for COVID relief fraud.
Andrew Marnell of West Los Angeles pleaded guilty last year to defrauding the federal government out of nearly $9 million. According to federal officials, he filed fraudulent documents for multiple companies in multiple states and even had multiple identities to match. In his indictment, the DOJ details a Montana-based company called Shale Creek run by a man named “Tyler Lerman”, as well as a Wyoming-based company called Slatestone, run by “Andrew Merrill”, and finally, another company based in Montana called Quicksilver, led by “Andrew Maxwell”. All three men, of course, were actually Marnell.
With the money, Marnell bought himself adult toys, gambled in Vegas, and lost a lot of money in the stock market. Speak Sacramento bee, in his plea deal, Marnell agreed to give up a Rolex Oyster watch, a Range Rover and a Ducati motorcycle. “He also agreed to return $1.5 million seized from brokerage accounts and over $319,000 in cash found at his home.”
Defense contractor Martin Kao, 47, of Hawaii has pleaded no guilty of bank fraud and money laundering for allegedly lying on a PPP application for more than $12.8 million in federal aid. In a separate case, Kao was also charged with making illegal campaign contributions to Senator Susan Collins of Maine. “A Honolulu-based company that has been awarded an $8 million contract for defense work in Maine appears to be tied to a mysterious campaign donation made to a super PAC supporting U.S. Senator Susan Collins in her re-election bid. “, said the Hawaiian media. civilian beat reported.
In what looks like the most Hallmark take on PPP loans yet, the DOJ claims Brandon Casutt, 49, of Nevada, lied on his loan documents and used the money to buy a house for his family. . For this to work, he would have involved his entire community. With its 500,000 PPP loans, DOJ says Casutt writes checks to 23 different peopleand after being cashed, he had the money “diverted into a bank account”, then used the funds “to purchase a $400,000 home in Henderson, which he and his family moved into at the end of June 2020”.
All that’s stopping this case from becoming a Hollywood blockbuster is someone learning the meaning of Christmas along the way.
When PPP loans plummeted, Lee Price III, a career criminal with a long rap sheet, swooped in for the flashiest thing he could buy – a brand new Lamborghini Urus. The $200,000 SUV looks like an expensive toy, that is exactly what it is. But the Texan also had to buy himself a truck made for the Lone Star State – a Ford F-350. Then he looked down and saw that he needed some eye candy for his wrist. So he bought a Rolex. Then he frequented strip clubs in Houston.
In November, Price was sentenced to more than nine years in prison. The lesson here: Just because you’re a career criminal doesn’t mean you’re good at it.
Gregory J. Blotnick, 34, of Florida, pleaded guilty to stealing $4.6 million from the PPP program. According to the US Attorney in Newark, Blotnick had applied for “21 loans from 13 different lenders between April 2020 and May 2021, receiving $4,681,796 of the $6,889,089 he tried to obtain”.
Blotnick took his scammed $4.6 million and pumped it into his brokerage accounts. The next phase of his criminal plan was to bet big on the pandemic-stricken stock market and “buy low.” But rather than kill on the upside, Blotnick lost $3 million on his amateur stock picks. He now “Face a maximum total sentence of 30 years in prison.“Needless to say, there are easier ways to lose all your money in the stock market.
Dinesh Sah, 55, of Texas, is one of the oldest people to face PPP fraud charges. He also decided to go much further than anyone else: in March, he pleaded guilty to attempting to defraud the government out of nearly $25 million.
Sah filed fraudulent loan documents on 15 different applications and managed to convince eight different lenders to approve his PPP loans. And once he got his $25 million, Sah went on a wild shopping spree. He decide to “buy several homes in Texas, pay off mortgages on other homes he had in California, and buy a fleet of luxury cars, including a Bentley convertible, a Corvette Stingray, and a Porsche Macan.”
In his arrangements with the DOJ, “Sah has agreed to confiscate, among other assets, eight homes, six luxury vehicles and more than $9 million in fraudulent proceeds that the government has seized to date.” He was also sentenced to more than 11 years in federal prison.
You have to understand that when the government hands out $800 billion in humanitarian aid, eventually someone will double-check all that paperwork.