Tampa CARES Act Fraud Defense Lawyer
In March 2020, Congress enacted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to provide emergency financial assistance to individuals and businesses suffering economic effects due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Relief under the CARES Act has been provided mainly through two major programs – the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), offering funding to businesses through PPP loans for payroll costs, mortgage interest, rent and utilities, and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program, providing economic relief to small businesses experiencing a temporary loss of revenue because of government-mandated shutdowns and restrictions, a reduced workforce, and other effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over two trillion dollars has flowed through the CARES Act programs, including mainly PPP and EIDL but also several others, such as:
- Economic Impact Payments (EIP)
- Provider Relief Fund (PRF)
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA)
- Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)
People suspected of committing fraud related to any of these programs could face both criminal and civil liability, meaning they could be imprisoned for a term of years and also exposed to numerous and hefty civil money penalties. The Tampa CARES Act fraud defense lawyers at Trombley & Hanes, P.A. practice both white collar criminal defense and civil litigation, representing clients in Tampa, throughout Florida and nationwide who have been accused of defrauding the government. Contact Trombley & Hanes, P.A. for advice and assistance regarding charges related to CARES Act fraud litigation.
Government Agencies Investigating and Enforcing CARES Act Fraud Charges
A charge of committing fraud related to programs under the CARES Act could come from many different quarters. The leading government agencies investigating and prosecuting CARES Act fraud crimes are:
- Department of Justice
- Small Business Administration – Office of the Inspector General
- US Treasury, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC)
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)
- Federal Reserve Board
- Florida Attorney General and other State Attorneys General
DOJ Enforcement Tools
The Department of Justice is using both criminal and civil enforcement tools against people suspected of engaging in CARES Act fraud. DOJ’s two main civil enforcement tools are the False Claims Act (FCA) and the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act (FIRREA).
False Claims Act (FCA)
This law creates liability for knowingly submitting a false claim to the government, causing another to submit a false claim to the government, or knowingly making a false record or statement to get a false claim paid by the government. The DOJ is using the FCA to target individuals accused of submitting false claims for PPP loans and other CARES Act programs. The “knowledge” requirement of an FCA claim can be key to a successful prosecution or defense. The knowledge element turns on showing either actual knowledge, deliberate ignorance or reckless disregard of the truth or falsity of the information.
Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act (FIRREA)
While the FCA dates back to the American Civil War, FIRREA owes its birth to the savings and loan crisis of the late 20th century, and its rebirth to the residential mortgage meltdown of the early 21st century. FIRREA, through its civil money penalty provision, is now being pressed into service as a tool for fighting CARES Act fraud. Depending on the underlying statute involved, the government might need to do no more than prove the predicate offense to invoke a FIRREA penalty. In other cases, the prosecution bears the additional burden of proving the alleged violation affected a federally insured financial institution. As a civil law, the burden of proof required of the government is considerably lower than in the case of criminal prosecution. Civil money penalties under FIRREA can amount to $1.1 million per violation, $1.1 million per day or $5.5 million per violation for continuing violations, and considerably more to match the amount of pecuniary gain or loss involved.
Help With CARES Act Fraud Defense in Tampa, Florida & Nationwide
Trombley & Hanes, P.A. is a boutique litigation firm that represents clients in both criminal defense and civil litigation. The firm is experienced in all manner of white collar criminal defense and fraud charges as well as allegations of misconduct under the False Claims Act and other federal laws. For help with CARES Act claims of criminal or civil misconduct in Tampa, Florida, or nationwide, call Trombley & Hanes, P.A. at 813-229-7918, or contact the firm online to schedule a consultation.
Frequently Asked Questions for CARES Act Fraud Defense in Tampa, Florida and Nationwide
Can Individuals Be Charged with CARES Act Fraud in Florida?
Yes. While most CARE ACT fraud targets businesses, individuals can also be investigated and charged with obtaining Small Business Association (SBA) disaster loans or other loan programs with false information or using the funds for unauthorized purposes.
The government and law enforcement agencies have been actively investigating and prosecuting individuals, small businesses, and large corporations engaged in fraudulent activities related to COVID-19 relief programs.
According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, one individual was sentenced to 40 months in prison and ordered to pay nearly $1.4 million in restitution after pleading guilty to a scheme involving the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL) and Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). This individual admitted to submitting over 20 fraudulent EIDL applications and reported having over $5 million in payroll expenses on a PPP application despite not being a business owner or having any employees.
In another individual case, a man was sentenced to six years in prison, followed by two years of supervised release for committing a bank robbery, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft for using false information to apply for a PPP loan and multiple EIDL loans. He was also ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $87,583.
No one is immune from the federal government’s pursuit of CARES Act fraud violations. If you are being investigated for, or have been arrested and charged with PPP or EIDL fraud, contact our experienced CARES Act fraud defense attorneys in Tampa today to learn more about how we can help.
How Many People Have Been Prosecuted for CARES Act Fraud?
As of 2023, the federal government had already brought criminal charges against more than 1,000 defendants, with alleged losses exceeding $1.1 billion; seized over $1 billion in EIDL proceeds; and initiated more than 240 civil investigations into more than 1,800 individuals and entities for alleged misconduct in connection with pandemic relief loans totaling more than $6 billion.
Should I Cooperate with Investigators if I am Under Suspicion of CARES Act Fraud?
Before speaking with investigators, it is essential to consult with a CARES Act Fraud attorney in Tampa. Any admission of guilt can result in a lengthy prison sentence and significant civil penalties. Be sure your rights and best interests are protected from the beginning of your investigation, so together we can help mitigate any potential penalties.
Can I Be Charged with Multiple Counts of CARES Act Fraud for Different Programs?
Yes. If you are suspected of committing fraud in multiple CARES Act programs, you may face multiple charges, each corresponding to the specific alleged offenses. If so, both criminal and civil penalties will increase. We can help you understand the charges against you, the evidence the U.S. Attorney’s Office has, and how we can pursue the best outcome using a customized defense strategy that fits your needs.
What are the Penalties Associated with CARES Act Fraud Convictions?
Individuals, small businesses, and large corporations can face criminal and civil penalties upon a conviction for CARES Act fraud. The criminal penalties may include jail time, fines, and restitution orders. If you are facing CARES Act fraud charges, it is crucial to partner with an experienced law firm that has criminal attorneys who specialize in both criminal and civil defense strategies. We can help, starting with an initial case review.
What are the Common Defenses Against CARES Act Fraud Charges?
Each CARES Act fraud case is unique and requires a thorough review before implementing a customized defense strategy. However, some of the most common defenses against CARES Act fraud charges may include lack of intent to defraud, demonstrating that the loan or benefit was obtained legitimately, challenging the accuracy of the evidence, proving compliance with program requirements, and showing that any discrepancies were unintentional.
Can I Negotiate a Plea Bargain for CARES Act Fraud Charges?
If you are considering taking a plea deal that requires you to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for reduced penalties, talk to our trusted CARE Act fraud lawyers in Tampa today to understand the specific terms of the agreement first. You do not want to make any decisions regarding federal fraud charges without having all the information necessary to make an informed decision about your case.
What Happens if Someone Else Committed CARES Act Fraud in My Name?
With enough identifying information about an individual, others can create false applications for loans or other financial gain. Unfortunately, the extensive availability of funds through the CARES Act left some defending themselves against receiving financial resources they never applied for. If this is true for you, it will quickly become apparent that proving that someone stole your identity to obtain these funds is incredibly difficult. You could be on the hook for criminal and civil convictions without a compelling defense. We can help you understand your legal rights and options to fight these charges so that you can put these damaging circumstances behind you.
How Long Can the Federal Government Pursue CARES Act Fraud Cases?
In August 2022, President Biden signed two bills into law extending the statute of limitations for civil and criminal enforcement actions for fraud involving PPP and EIDL loans. These two bills — the PPP and Bank Fraud Enforcement Harmonization Act of 2022 and the COVID-19 EIDL Fraud Statute of Limitations Act of 2022 — were both passed by Congress with bipartisan support.
This extension gives the government enforcement power through a ten-year limitations period. If you as being investigated individually or as a company and are unsure of your rights, contact our skilled CARES Act fraud lawyers in Tampa today to learn more.
Can I Appeal a CARES Act Fraud Conviction?
You may have the right to appeal the decision if convicted of CARES Act fraud. Our experienced CARES Act fraud attorneys in Tampa can help you understand the appeals process and advise whether an appeal is a viable option in your case.