Man Sentenced for COVID-19 Rescue Fraud | USAO-SDFL

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Miami, Florida – A Florida man has been sentenced to 33 months in prison for fraudulently seeking more than $ 7,263,564 in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) in the framework of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Andre Clark, 48, of Miramar, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud on May 14. Clark admitted to securing a PPP loan of $ 488,565 on behalf of his company, Top Choice LLC, based on forged information and documents that a co-conspirator, James Stote, submitted on his behalf. Clark also admitted to recruiting friends and associates whom he referred to Stote for the purpose of submitting additional fraudulent PPP loan applications, sometimes in exchange for bribes. Clark admitted to researching $ 6,774,999 in fraudulent PPP loans through other conspirators he referred to in the scheme. In addition to the jail term, Clark was ordered to pay $ 2,975,086 in restitution.

Additionally, two other co-conspirators were recently convicted for their role in the scheme. On July 29, Tonye Johnson, 29, of Philadelphia, Pa., Was sentenced to 18 months in prison. Johnson has admitted to obtaining a fraudulent PPP loan of $ 389,627 for his company, Synergy Towing & Transport LLC, based on forged information and documents. And, on July 13, Tiara Walker, 38, of Miami Gardens, Fla., Was sentenced to 12 months and one day in jail. Walker admitted to obtaining a fraudulent PPP loan of $ 258,575 for his company, Utilization Review Pros LLC, based on forged information and documents. Johnson and Walker both falsely inflated their company’s employee count and monthly payroll, and they worked with Stote and other co-conspirators to secure their fraudulent loans.

James Stote was charged by complaint on June 24, 2020 with wire fraud, bank fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and his case is still pending. A complaint is only an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in court.

Acting US Attorney Juan Antonio Gonzalez of the Southern District of Florida; Deputy Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice; Special Agent in Charge Michael J. De Palma of the Miami Field Office for IRS Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI); Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI Miami Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite of the SBA Inspector General’s Office (SBA-OIG) Eastern Region made the announcement.

The IRS-CI, the FBI, and the SBA-OIG have investigated these cases.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Turken and David Snider of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida and Attorney General Philip Trout of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section continued the cases.

In May, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Enforcement Task Force to mobilize resources from the Department of Justice in partnership with government agencies to strengthen efforts to combat and prevent fraud related to the pandemic. The Working Group strengthens efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable national and international criminal actors and assists agencies responsible for administering relief programs to prevent fraud, among other methods, by scaling up and integrating mechanisms coordination, identifying resources and techniques for uncovering fraudulent actors and their programs, and sharing and leveraging information and knowledge gained from previous enforcement efforts. For more information on the department’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 Control hotline at 866-720- 5721 or via the NCDF web complaint form at: https: //www.justice. gov / disaster-fraud / ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

You can find court documents and related information on the South Florida District Court website at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or to http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov, under file numbers 21-cr-60029, 21-cr-60017 and 20-cr-60159.

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