May 19, 2020 / 5:56 PM / in 8 days

U.S. charges Texas man with $5 million-plus coronavirus loan fraud

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. federal prosecutors charged a Texas man on Tuesday with fraudulently seeking $5 million in loans from an emergency program established to ease the economic strain caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Prosecutors allege in a criminal complaint that Samuel Yates, 32, of Maud, Texas, sought millions of dollars in Small Business Administration-guaranteed loans from two different banks. Yates claimed to employ over 400 people, although in reality “no employees worked for his purported business,” prosecutors said in a statement.

“This defendant allegedly sought to steal millions of dollars in loans intended to aid legitimate small businesses grappling with the economic effects of COVID-19”, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, said Brian Benczkowski, head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. 

Prosecutors said charges Yates faces include violating statutes relating to wire fraud, bank fraud, making false statements to a financial institution and making false statements to the SBA.

They said Yates made two fraudulent applications to two different lenders for loans guaranteed by the SBA for COVID-19 relief through the virus-relief plan called the Paycheck Protection Program.  

In an application submitted to one of the lenders, Yates allegedly sought $5 million in PPP loan proceeds by fraudulently claiming to have 400 employees with an average monthly payroll of $2 million.  

In his second loan application, prosecutors say Yates claimed to employ over 100 individuals and was able to obtain a loan of more than $500,000. 

To back up these applications, prosecutors say Yates submitted a list of purported employees that he obtained from a publicly available random name generator on the internet.  He also submitted forged tax documents with each application.

Reuters was not immediately able to locate Yates.

Reporting By Mark Hosenball; Editing by Dan Grebler

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