Many small business owners found the Paycheck Protection Program to be a lifesaver in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic to cover the cost of payroll, business-related expenses such as rent and utilities, and other related employee benefits. Although the program paid out close to $800 billion in loans for the duration it was in effect, it is now estimated that tens or even hundreds of billions of that total were secured based on fraudulent means.
Paycheck protection program (PPP) fraud investigations in Fort Lauderdale and across South Florida are ongoing and extremely wide-ranging. Individuals who find themselves as the target of these investigations could face extremely grave federal charges that, if convicted, would mean years in jail, fines, and other harsh penalties. If investigators have contacted you or believe that you may be the subject of such an investigation, you should contact a PPP fraud attorney at Rossen Law Firm right away. We know how to handle these cases efficiently and effectively.
Even though the paycheck protection program issued by the Small Business Administration disbursed close to $800 billion to recipients before it was closed, that money ran out relatively fast. Many people were upset with how funds were distributed; the federal government has now received over 55,000 complaints of fraud. It is estimated that the amount of PPP funds disbursed based on fraudulent premises could total billions of dollars.
Most PPP funds were designed to be spent on costs related to keeping the business running. Moreover, applicants were required to supply detailed payroll, tax, and other business records to demonstrate the need for PPP funds and the amount of funds their business should receive. As a result, any misstatements on the application could lead to federal fraud charges. Common PPP application mistakes include:
Incorrect use of PPP funds could also lead to a fraud investigation in South Florida. Most of the PPP loans that were previously distributed have now been forgiven, so individuals who sought forgiveness of their PPP Loan when they were not eligible to do so may be left open to federal fraud charges as well. If federal authorities believe that someone committed fraud related to the application for PPP funds, use of PPP funds, the forgiveness of PPP funds, or otherwise, this could give rise to charges including but not limited to identify theft, tax evasion, tax fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering.
If a PPP fraud investigation results in a charge and conviction, individuals accused of such could face decades in prison and be forced to pay hundreds of thousands or more in financial penalties. For example, a federal money laundering charge can carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years, while mail fraud or wire fraud can impose a maximum prison sentence of 20 to 30 years.
There are many potential defenses that our Fort Lauderdale attorneys could use to help you during a PPP fraud investigation, depending on the underlying charge or charges involved. Lack of intent or lack of evidence can be plausible defenses.
Multiple federal agencies are handling paycheck protection program (PPP) fraud investigations in South Florida, including the Department of Justice, the Small Business Administration Office of the Inspector General, The Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Internal Revenue Service. While any criminal accusation requires a proactive and unwavering legal defense, federal criminal charges such as those currently being launched against individuals suspected of PPP fraud carry even tougher penalties.
If you have received a target letter or subpoena related to a PPP fraud investigation or have reason to believe you may be contacted by authorities, call our award-winning legal team right away. You need to consult with an attorney without delay who is ready and able to manage all aspects of your case. The PPP fraud lawyers at Rossen Law are ready to get to work for you.
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