The Department of Justice announced James Waylon Howell was sentenced for defrauding COVID-19 economic relief programs. Howell pled guilty to “engaging in more than $150,000 in fraud related to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, and to committing money laundering.” He was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
“This prosecution highlights the Department of Justice’s commitment to aggressively prosecute those who have defrauded these important programs enacted to provide economic relief to those who have suffered financially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said United States Attorney Francis M. Hamilton III. “Fortunately, the quick and capable work of our federal partners permitted the recovery of a substantial amount of stolen funds.”
The CARES Act was enacted in March of 2020, which provided emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans during the COVID pandemic. Part of the money received from the CARES Act was the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. The PPP provided small business owners with forgivable loans and the EIDL program provided business owners with small-interest loans.
According to the statement, Howell fraudulently applied for four loans from April to June 2020, totaling $154,700 through the PPP and EIDL programs. “Howell submitted fraudulent applications under the names of two businesses that did not qualify for the COVID-19 relief funds that Howell sought.” As he continued his fraud scheme, Howell “submitted false supporting records, including Internal Revenue Service documents, and made false statements about the number of individuals the companies employed, the revenue generated, and the waged paid. Howell also made false statements about the business entities and the intended use of the loan proceeds.”
“While businesses were suffering and trying their best to make it through the pandemic, others chose greed,” Assistant Special Agent in Charge of IRS-Criminal Investigation Brian Thomas said. “IRS-CI will continue to use its financial expertise to track and recommend prosecution of criminals taking advantage of a crisis.”
In the plea deal, Howell admitted to applying through the Small Business Administration in the name of Advanced Strategy Holdings, LLC, seeking $83,800 in EIDL funds. He falsely claimed, the U.S. Attorney’s statement said, that the company had four employees, “generated $700,000 in gross revenue, incurred $0 in cost of goods sold, and paid wages of $440,000 in the twelve months preceding the COVID-19 pandemic.”
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