An Augusta man admitted Wednesday to submitting fraudulent applications for COVID-19 small business relief funding, receiving more than $4 million in payments.
Kamario Thomas, 42, is charged with conspiracy, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Thomas faces a statutory penalty of up to five years in federal prison followed by up to three years of supervised release, along with substantial financial penalties and restitution to the U.S. government. There is no parole in the federal system.
The case is being investigated by the Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General, IRS Criminal Investigation, FBI, U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Department of Labor Office of Inspector General.
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“This conviction represents the continuing, vigorous pursuit of those who undeservedly accessed government funding for struggling small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said David H. Estes, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. “In collaboration with our law enforcement partners, we will hold responsible those who attempt to illegally profit from these programs.”
The 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act provided more than $650 billion in funding for qualifying small businesses facing financial challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, with grants and forgivable loans available through the Paycheck Protection Plan or Economic Injury Disaster Loans.
In his plea agreement, Thomas admitted that he completed false and fraudulent applications for himself, and that he received hundreds of thousands of dollars in kickbacks in return for completing and submitting fraudulent PPP and EIDL applications on behalf of his co-conspirators. To create those applications, Thomas fabricated IRS forms and tax records.
In total, the scheme caused the disbursement of more than $4 million in fraudulent CARES Act loans and grants.
“In far too many cases, greedy opportunists took advantage of the PPP, diverting much-needed funds away from those businesses that desperately needed it,” said James E. Dorsey, special agent in charge, IRS Criminal Investigation in Atlanta.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.