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U.S. Attorney’s Office charges Nevada man with COVD-19 relief fraud

Posted at 10:44 AM, Dec 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-21 13:44:57-05

A Nevada man was arraigned on Dec. 18 for fraudulently obtaining approximately $1,662,170 from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program.

U.S. Attorney Nicholas A. Trutanich of the District of Nevada, Special Agent in Charge Aaron C. Rouse of the FBI’s Las Vegas Field Office, Special Agent in Charge Tara Sullivan of the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI), and Special Agent in Charge Weston King of the Small Business Administration’s Office of the Inspector General (SBA-OIG) made the announcement.

Bryan Robinson, 37, of Henderson, Nevada, is charged in an indictment in the District of Nevada, with two counts of wire fraud and one count of engaging in transactions in unlawful proceeds. He appeared on December 18 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Cam Ferenbach in Las Vegas.

The indictment alleges that Robinson perpetrated a scheme to submit a fraudulent EIDL application to the SBA and a fraudulent PPP loan application to a financial technology company. The SBA guarantees the loans for COVID-19 relief through the PPP under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The CARES Act also authorizes the SBA to provide EIDL of up to $2 million to eligible small businesses experiencing financial disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the indictment, Robinson submitted two fraudulent applications in the name of ATeam LLC, which is a dance company, for: (1) a PPP loan for approximately $1,502,000; and (2) an EIDL for approximately $150,000. The loan applications represented that ATeam had 37 employees, significant payroll expenses, and substantial revenue. But ATeam in fact was a dance company and did not pay any wages.

Further, the indictment alleges that Robinson did not use the funds for payroll payments. Instead, he used the funds for personal expenses and transfers to other businesses.

The CARES Act is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020. It is designed to provide emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. One source of relief provided by the CARES Act is the authorization of up to $349 billion in forgivable loans 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.

The PPP allows qualifying small businesses and other organizations to receive loans with a maturity of two years and an interest rate of one percent. Businesses must use PPP loan proceeds 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.

The EIDL program is designed to provide economic relief to small businesses that are currently experiencing a temporary loss of revenue. EIDL proceeds can be used to cover a wide array of working capital and normal operating expenses, such as continuation of health care benefits, rent, utilities, and fixed debt payments. If an applicant also obtains a loan under the PPP, then EIDL funds cannot be used for the same purpose as the PPP funds.

A federal indictment complaint is merely an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The FBI, IRS-CI, and SBA-OIG investigated the case. Trial Attorney Joseph McFarlane of the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jessica Oliva of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Nevada are prosecuting the case.