A Louisiana man, Michael Ansezell Tolliver, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for money laundering related to a fraudulent scheme that saw him obtain more than $1.1 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program loans.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, said that the sentencing demonstrates that those who exploit COVID-19 relief programs for personal gain will face prosecution. U.S. Attorney Brandon B. Brown for the Western District of Louisiana emphasized that federal programs are in place to support those in need, not to benefit fraudsters. The case highlights the importance of prosecuting those who illegally obtain benefits.
Court documents revealed that Tolliver submitted nine fraudulent PPP and EIDL Program loan applications on behalf of several purported companies he owned, including Tolliver Oil & Gas Corporation of Louisiana Inc. and Tolliver Petroleum Corporation of Louisiana. He falsified information in the applications and supporting documents, such as falsely claiming that some of his businesses had over 100 employees. Tolliver also submitted falsified federal tax returns.
The case should serve as a warning to those who have fraudulently received or attempted to receive funds meant to support businesses affected by the pandemic. Special Agent in Charge James E. Dorsey of the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Atlanta Field Office emphasized the importance of identifying and prosecuting those who exploit these relief programs.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office have been working together to uncover and address PPP and EIDL fraud. Special Counsel Peggy Delinois Hamilton of the SBA said the agency is committed to identifying and aggressively pursuing instances of fraud in small business emergency relief programs. The SBA appreciates the work that law enforcement partners have done to hold fraudsters accountable.
Tolliver sought more than $7.6 million in PPP and EIDL Program loans and obtained over $1.1 million. He then laundered and misused the loan proceeds, transferring the funds to personal bank accounts and purchasing luxury items. Authorities seized approximately $128,500 from bank accounts and various luxury items, including vehicles and watches.
The IRS-CI and SBA investigated the case. Since the inception of the CARES Act, the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section has prosecuted over 200 defendants in more than 130 criminal cases and has seized over $78 million in cash proceeds derived from fraudulently obtained PPP funds.
Small business owners should stay informed about the government’s response to the pandemic and the resources available to them. The COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force was established on May 17, 2021, to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. For more information on the department’s response to the pandemic and available resources, please visit www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
This article, “Louisiana Man Sentenced in $1.1M COVID-19 Relief Fraud Scheme” was first published on Small Business Trends