The Paycheck Protection Program was one of the core provisions of the CARES Act, passed in the early days of the COVID-19 crisis. Executed via the Small Business Administration, the PPP program was designed to help business owners cover payroll costs and related expenses during the crisis. PPP loans were initially designed to cover up to 8 weeks of such costs, but that timeframe was later extended to 24 weeks. In the end, nearly $800 billion worth of PPP funds were distributed to recipients nationwide.
While many small business loans were legitimate, allegations of fraud have been rampant in the period following these funds’ disbursement. The Department of Justice and other agencies examining potential PPP fraud continue expanding their investigations into these allegations. While instances of fraud have occurred, many well-meaning business owners have been caught up in this ever-widening net. If you believe you are the target of a PPP fraud investigation, you should consult an attorney immediately. Our South Florida paycheck protection program (PPP) fraud lawyers at Rossen Law Firm can give you the help you need.
There are many possible instances in which federal authorities are investigating and charging people with PPP fraud.
Our Fort Lauderdale lawyers commonly see paycheck protection fraud related to inaccuracies in the initial PPP application. Business owners were required to include details such as number of employees, gross salary, and gross income. As well as provide the supporting documentation.
Misstating the number of employees the company had on payroll, inflating their salaries or the company’s gross income, falsifying tax records, or other actions designed to increase the total amount of funds are all instances that could result in PPP fraud charges.
Other circumstances that have led to PPP fraud charges include situations where someone used a shell company on the application to represent it as a business that would be eligible for funds or used another person’s business information to secure funds. Businesses reincorporated shortly before the PPP loan application was submitted may also raise a red flag to federal authorities.
In addition to issues with the application, another common set of circumstances that could see you charged with a federal crime related to a PPP loan would be the misuse of the funds. There were precise costs that PPP funds were designed to be used for. Eligible PPP expenses included employee benefits and other payroll, utilities, leasing, and other business-related expenses. If an applicant received PPP funds but used that money to pay for things like the rent or mortgage on their home, this could lead to PPP fraud charges.
The charges and penalties you might face if accused of PPP fraud will go back to the exact action that federal authorities are alleging happened. Some of the most common PPP-related federal charges our South Florida attorneys see are wire, bank, tax, and mail fraud.
Accusations like these require immediate action. For example, a conviction for wire fraud could see you spend up to 20 years in prison, plus the requirement to pay as much as half a million dollars in fines. A bank fraud charge and subsequent conviction could mean $1 million in penalties, plus as much as 30 years of incarceration.
There are multiple ways that you could discover that you are the target of a PPP fraud investigation. You could receive a target letter from entities such as the U.S. Attorney’s Office or the DOJ indicating that you are the subject of such an investigation. Another telltale sign is when funds in your business account or any other account that may have received money from a PPP loan are suddenly frozen. You may also have received a subpoena either as the target of a PPP fraud investigation or simply because authorities believe you have some exposure to criminal activities related to PPP fraud.
A South Florida paycheck protection program (PPP) fraud lawyer can help if investigators have contacted you. Even if you have not received such contact but are concerned that you may be vulnerable to such allegations, being proactive and speaking with a lawyer is wise. Whether the matter can be quickly resolved by providing specific documentation to investigators or require aggressive negotiation and courtroom skills, our attorneys at Rossen Law Firm can put their experience and legal expertise to work for you. Contact PPP fraud lawyers today to schedule your initial strategy session.
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