The U.S. Department of Justice reported Tuesday that a federal jury had found a California man guilty of submitting fake applications for PPP funds and money laundering (March 29).
CARES Act funding is made available through the Paycheck Protection Program, which helps small businesses cover up to eight weeks’ worth of wages and benefits.
More than one-fifth of PPP loans, worth $76 billion, contained at least one indicator of probable fraud in October 2021, according to a story in the New York Times.
Robert Benlevi, 53, of Encino, California, applied for 27 PPP loans totaling $27 million between April and June 2020 on behalf of eight companies he owned, according to an announcement with the Department of Justice.
According to the findings of the investigation, none of Benlevi’s enterprises had any employees or monthly payroll costs of more than $400,000, despite his bogus claims in his PPP applications.
Aside from the $4.8 million payrolls, Benlevi was also accused of fabricating IRS paperwork by fraudulently claiming that the eight companies had annual payrolls of $4.8 million.
Withdrawals from PPP funds, credit card payments, and the rent of a beachfront apartment in Santa Monica were all used by Benlevi prior to his arrest.
If convicted on bank fraud and false statement charges, Benlevi may face up to 30 years in jail and up to 10 years in prison for each count of money laundering.