A Houston man who defrauded the government on two different PPP loans was sentenced to nine years in prison after using the relief funds to purchase cars, a watch and pay off a home loan according to the Justice Department.
30-year-old Lee Price III was sentenced Monday (November 29) on wire fraud and money laundering charges for submitting two Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan applications on behalf of three different businesses. He pled guilty to the charges in September, but not before attempting to get more than $2.6 million from the program introduced to help small companies to stay afloat and workers employed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In March, federal investigators identified more than half a billion dollars in fraud and charged 474 people with crimes related to stealing money from COVID relief programs.
Price was granted $1.6 million in PPP Loan funds after applying for and receiving two loans one month apart and spent the funds allocated within the same month, per the Justice Department.
“Mr. Price recognizes that the stiff sentence imposed today by Judge Gilmore was triggered both by his fraudulent conduct in this PPP loan case and by the rather ragged criminal history he brought to the table,” Price’s attorney Tom Berg said in a statement. “The Court found that he did fully accept responsibility by unconditionally pleading guilty to the indictment.”
How The Scam Happened
Price requested over $750K on the first loan for a construction company. According to court documents, Price requested on behalf of an Ohio resident who died before the date the application was submitted. Price claimed the company employed 30 employees on that application and had an average monthly payroll of $300K. However, there were no employees and no payroll. However, Price would file fake tax records to support the fraudulent loan and a fake driver’s license. He electronically signed a supplemental form for the first loan on May 3, 2020, weeks after President Donald Trump announced the program.
With the funds, he purchased a 2020 Ford F-350, using $85,000 of the loan money. He decided to go bigger on the second loan application, requesting nearly $950K for a company claiming it had 50 employees with an average monthly payroll of $375,000. Again, there was no payroll, and there were no employees.
When the document asked if he was subject to any pending criminal charges, on probation or parole, Price lied as he was facing felony charges of tampering with a government record in Harris County.
Still, Price received the second amount of funds in June 2020, purchasing himself a $14K Rolex and a $233K 2019 Lamborghini Urus.
The government eventually seized more than $700,000 of the funds Price fraudulently gained due to the scam, and he must forfeit the Lamborghini, the Rolex and the F-35 truck.