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He used money from covid-19 relief funds to buy cars and a Rolex

2021-12-02T06:48:38.815Z

A Houston man was sentenced to nine years in prison for using money he obtained from covid-19 relief funds to buy cars, a watch and pay off a home loan, the Justice Department announced.



A Lamborghini SpA Urus sports utility vehicle (SUV) is displayed during the 2019 New York International Auto Show (NYIAS) in New York, US, on Thursday, April 18, 2019. The NYIAS, North America's first and largest-attended auto show dating back to 1900, showcases an incredible collection of cutting-edge design and extraordinary innovation.

Photographer: Natan Dvir / Bloomberg via Getty Images

(CNN) -

A Houston man has been sentenced to nine years in prison for using money he obtained from covid-19 relief funds to buy cars, a watch and pay off a home loan, the Justice Department announced.

Lee Price III, 30, was sentenced Monday on wire fraud and money laundering charges for submitting false Pay Check Protection Program (PPP) loan applications to two different lenders on behalf of three different companies, according to the Department of Justice.

Price pleaded guilty to the charges in September, the Justice Department said.

PPP loans were introduced to help keep small businesses and their employed workers afloat during the covid-19 pandemic.

The program ended on May 31, 2021.

Federal investigators have identified more than $ 500 million in fraud and charged 474 people with crimes related to stealing money from U.S. covid aid programs, the Justice Department announced in March.

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Through loan applications, Price sought to raise more than $ 2.6 million and successfully received more than $ 1.6 million in PPP loan funds, the DOJ said.

He applied for and received two PPP loans, one month apart, and spent the allocated funds in the same month, the Justice Department said.

"Mr. Price acknowledges that the harsh sentence imposed today by Judge Gilmore was sparked both by his fraudulent conduct in this PPP loan case and by the rather spotty criminal record he brought to the table," said Price's attorney, Tom Berg, to CNN in a statement.

"The court found that he fully accepted his responsibility by pleading unconditionally guilty to the indictment."

No payroll, no employees, and no easy money

In the first loan application, Price applied for a PPP loan of $ 752,452 for a construction company, on behalf of an Ohio resident who died before the application filing date, according to court documents.

In the same application, Price claimed that the construction company employed 30 employees and had an average monthly payroll of US $ 300,981.

However, there were no employees or payroll, court documents show.

The second request required Price to declare whether he was the subject of any pending criminal charges, on probation or parole, to which Price said no.

Price lied, court documents said, citing public records showing he faced serious charges for tampering with a government record in Harris County, Texas.

The second application was approved and Price electronically signed for the funds on June 23, 2020. Three days later, $ 14,343.13 was used to purchase a Rolex watch and the next day, $ 233,337.60 was used to purchase a Lamborghini Urus 2019, according to court documents.

Overall, the Justice Department and law enforcement partners seized more than $ 700,000 of the funds that Price fraudulently obtained.

He must also give up the Lamborghini, Ford F-350 and Rolex watch, court documents noted.

"Mr. Price hopes that others will learn from his calculations that there is no easy money," Berg said.

"He has the balance of the 110-month sentence to reflect, repent and rebuild his wasted life."

Price has been detained at the Joe Corley Detention Center in Conroe, Texas, since his bond was revoked in August 2020 pending appointment by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, according to Berg.

The judge recommended that he be housed at the Federal Correctional Institution in Bastrop, Texas.

On Monday, Price filed a notice of appeal in the case.

Source: cnnespanol

All news articles on 2021-12-02

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