4 Georgia accused of $ 2.1 million money laundering program from PPP funding
Seven people have been charged in an indictment in the District of South Carolina for laundering over $ 750,000 in fraudulently obtained funds, including over $ 390,000 from a fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan . Four of the people are from Georgia.
The seven individuals used a variety of methods to launder money, including money laundering through a casino. The indictment also identifies more than $ 2.1 million in funds from twelve different bank accounts allegedly associated with the fraud scheme as subject to forfeiture that officers seized.
Acting Deputy Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice; South Carolina District Attorney Peter M. McCoy Jr.; Special Agent in Charge Jody Norris of the FBI Field Office in Columbia; Robert J. Murphy, the special agent in charge of the field division of the DEA in Atlanta, and the special agent in charge Kevin Kupperbusch of the Office of the Inspector General of Small Business (SBA OIG) for the region of l ‘East made this announcement.
Lauren Marcel Duhart, 34 from Stonecrest, GA, Joshua Bernard Smith, 39 from McDonough, GA, Steve Ronald Lewis, 43 from Snellville, GA, Christopher J. Agard, 41 from Marietta, GA, Henry Duffield, 58 from Belton, South Carolina, Jeremy Brandon Latourneau, 43 from Spartanburg, South Carolina, and Derick Keane, 43 from Spartanburg, South Carolina, were charged in an indictment filed in the District of South Carolina conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering. Duhart, Smith and Agard were arrested this morning and appeared this afternoon before US Judge Kevin F. McDonald of the District of South Carolina.
In May 2020, Agard submitted a fraudulent PPP loan application for his company, Wild Stylz Entertainment, LLC, to a financial institution. In support of the claim, Agard submitted fraudulent vouchers making numerous false and misleading statements about the number of employees and salary expenses of Wild Stylz. The financial institution approved and funded a loan of over $ 395,000. Agard has disseminated the fraudulently obtained funds to other members of the conspiracy to cover up the true nature of their fraudulently obtained funds. On May 27, 2020, Agard made an over-the-counter withdrawal of $ 200,000 at a bank branch. On May 28, 2020, Agard withdrew $ 50,000 in cash and made a counter-withdrawal of $ 96,000. In June 2020, Duhart, Smith and Lewis asked Hunt to provide Duhart, Smith and Lewis with bank accounts in which to deposit fraudulently obtained PPP funds. Hunt had previously been involved in drug trafficking and financial fraud with two South Carolina business owners. The two South Carolina business owners agreed to let Lewis use their bank accounts in exchange for a percentage of the fraudulent funds deposited into their account. Hunt provided Lewis with the banking information of the two South Carolina business owners and additional account access information. During several recorded calls in early June 2020, Duhart, Lewis, Smith and Hunt discussed the bank and wire fraud plots. During a call, Lewis informed Hunt that the scheme involved fraudulent bank requests and that they had to submit as many requests as possible to the bank by June 30.
The indictment alleges that Agard also used his company, Wild Stylz, to launder the proceeds of other fraudulent schemes. In October 2019, Lewis recruited Duffield to participate in a fraud scheme. As part of the scheme, Duffield authorized Agard to transfer $ 378,000 of the fraud proceeds from the Wild Stylz corporate account to be deposited into Duffield’s corporate account in exchange for a portion of the proceeds. After the product was deposited, Roosevelt Hunt (who pleaded guilty to related charges), Latourneau and Keane withdrew the funds from Duffield’s account by depositing checks totaling $ 200,000 at a casino. After playing for less than two hours, Hunt, Keane, and Latourneau pulled out of the casino and walked away with around $ 198,750 in cash. Lewis met with Hunt to recover the money that had been withdrawn from Duffield’s account. Lewis delivered some of the money he collected from Hunt to Duhart.
The CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) law is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020. It is designed to provide emergency financial assistance to millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects resulting from the pandemic of COVID-19. One source of relief under the CARES Act is the authorization of up to $ 349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses under the PPP. In April 2020, Congress authorized more than $ 300 billion in additional P3 funding.
The PPP allows small businesses and other eligible organizations to receive loans with a two-year term and an interest rate of one percent. Businesses must use the proceeds of the PPP loan for salary costs, mortgage interest, rent, and utilities. The PPP allows for the forgiveness of interest and principal if companies spend the proceeds of these expenses within a specified time frame and use at least a certain percentage of the loan for salary expenses.
An indictment is only an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in court.
This matter has been investigated by the FBI, DEA and SBA OIG. Attorney General Siji Moore of the Fraud Section of the Criminal Division and US Assistant Prosecutors Sloan P. Ellis and Brandi B. Hinton of the District of South Carolina are continuing the case.