Tampa PPP Loan Fraud Defense Lawyer
The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a huge piece of the government’s $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act spending, with over $680 billion sent to small businesses to help them cope with the economic setbacks brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. PPP comes in the form of forgivable loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA), which businesses can use to keep or rehire employees laid off due to shutdowns. The loans are 100% forgivable if used to cover payroll costs and other eligible expenses while keeping employees on the payroll and maintaining their pay at pre-COVID-19 salary levels. PPE loans require recipients to devote at least 60% of the loan toward payroll costs, while the remainder can be spent for other qualifying purposes such as paying interest on mortgages and covering rent and utilities.
The SBA has made over 7.5 million PPP loans totaling over $687 billion. Anticipating fraud from such a large-scale program, the Department of Justice (DOJ) immediately began investigating and enforcing allegations of fraud. In the first year of the CARES Act’s existence, DOJ charged roughly 100 defendants, alleging over $260 million of PPP fraud.
The Tampa PPP Loan fraud defense lawyers of Trombley & Hanes, P.A. in Tampa have decades of experience defending small business owners charged with health care fraud, government contracting fraud and related offenses. As former prosecutors, the firm’s lawyers are intimately familiar with relevant federal fraud statutes and their prosecution and defense. Since the onset of the current pandemic, the firm has taken on a wide range of COVID-19 fraud defense litigation, including programs under the CARES Act such as the Paycheck Protection Program. The firm represents clients charged with both criminal and civil liability in these areas.
Criminal Enforcement of PPP Loan Fraud Charges
The PPP itself is not a criminal statute and does not provide for criminal enforcement related to PPP loans. Loan recipients who do not meet the requirements of the program for loan forgiveness must repay the loans with interest, but they are not otherwise subject to criminal or civil liability under the CARES Act. DOJ prosecutions for PPP loan fraud instead rely on other federal statutes that outlaw certain kinds of white collar crime. Depending on how the loan was arranged for or what type of misconduct is alleged, an individual could be charged with PPP loan fraud under any number of federal statutes, including:
- Conspiring to commit an offense or defraud the United States ((18 U.S.C. 371)
- Knowingly making false statements to the Small Business Administration (18 U.S.C. 1014)
- Mail Fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1341)
- Wire Fraud (18 U.S.C § 1343)
- Bank Fraud (18 U.S.C § 1344)
- and many others
These laws carry penalties ranging from five years in prison and fines up to $100,000 to up to 30 years imprisonment and up to a million dollars in fines. Trombley & Hanes, P.A. is experienced in the prosecution and defense of many of these and related offenses and offers a vigorous defense against the crimes charged.
Civil Enforcement of PPP Loan Fraud Allegations
In addition to going after defendants with criminal complaints for fraud, the DOJ has also sought civil liability under the federal False Claims Act (FCA) and the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act (FIRREA). Penalties under the FCA can range from more than $11,000 to over $23,000 per violation, while FIRREA penalties can top one million dollars for a single violation. FIRREA claims require the government to prove a predicate offense under one of 14 different statutes; in cases under five of those statutes, the government must further prove fraud “affecting” a federal financial institution. FCA claims can be brought by individuals on behalf of the government (qui tam or whistleblower claims) with or without government assistance or intervention.
Vigorous PPP Loan Fraud Defense in Tampa and Beyond
For strong and effective defense of PPP loan fraud charges based on an intimate knowledge of the law and professional experience dealing with federal white collar criminal defense and civil fraud litigation, call Trombley & Hanes, P.A. in Tampa at 813-229-7918.