Irvine man indicted in $5 million COVID fraud scheme – Orange County Register


An Irvine man and his business partner are facing federal charges after authorities allege they fraudulently obtained $5 million in pandemic aid funds.

Prosecutors say Pierre Rogers of Irvine and Joshua Leavitt of New Hampshire applied for about $2 million in payroll protection loans and $3 million in a Small Business Administration program that also provided for other business expenses. They personally misused some of the funds, with Rogers spending $107,780 on a Rolls Royce Ghost, an indictment states.

Rogers, 43, and Leavitt, 40, are facing multiple counts of bank fraud, wire fraud and attempted wire fraud, with Rogers also accused of money laundering.

The two men carried out the alleged scheme through more than a half-dozen companies they owned and operated, including Dark Matter Associates, Puro Trader, Puro Group and Puro Lounge, authorities said.

Passed by Congress toward the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act was meant to provide relief to Americans and small businesses. It included Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans that were supposed to be used on payroll expenses, and also opened up the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Load (EIDL) program, which also provided loans for payroll and other expenses such as rent or mortgages.

Prosecutors allege that in 2020 and 2021, Rogers and Leavitt used false documents — including fabricated tax documents that inflated the size of their companies and payroll — to apply for more than two dozen PPP and EIDL loans. Since the size of the loans was based on a company’s payroll and number of employees, the two men were able to obtain larger loans than they were entitled to, according to prosecutors.

Leavitt was taken into custody on Thursday, according to the Department of Justice, while prosecutors were arranging for Roger’s appearance in federal court in New Hampshire.

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