PPP Loan Fraud Investigations Are Just Beginning

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was a lifeline for businesses during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Established under the CARES Act in March 2020, the program aimed to provide fast and direct economic assistance to small businesses struggling to maintain payroll and operational expenses. However, the haste with which these loans were approved left significant gaps in oversight, leading to widespread fraud. As a result, the U.S. government, with the help of the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Strikeforce, is now aggressively prosecuting individuals and entities that took advantage of the system. 

With so many PPO Loan prosecutions underway or coming soon, Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law in Tampa is alerting the Florida community that they have the experience and knowledge of the law to effectively defend individuals or businesses charged with any of the crimes associated with the PPP Loan program. If you are under investigation or facing indictment for any of these offenses, contact the federal criminal defense lawyers at Stechschulte Nell today. 

  • False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-3733): Imposes liability on individuals and companies who defraud governmental programs. This act is particularly relevant in cases where false information is provided to obtain federal funds. 
  • Wire Fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1343): Using electronic communications to commit fraud. 
  • Bank Fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1344): Defrauding financial institutions. 
  • False Statements (18 U.S.C. § 1001): Providing false information to the government. 
  • Conspiracy (18 U.S.C. § 371): Collaborating to commit fraud. 



The Rapid Approval and Resulting Fraud 

The PPP was designed to distribute funds quickly to prevent mass layoffs and business closures. Between April and August 2020, approximately 5.2 million loans were approved, totaling over $525 billion. The urgency to deploy these funds meant that traditional vetting processes were often bypassed. Banks were encouraged to approve loans rapidly, often with minimal verification of the applicant’s financial data or business operations. 

This expedited vetting and lending process opened the door for fraudulent applications. Estimates suggest that as much as $80 billion of the PPP funds were fraudulently obtained. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA) Inspector General, over 50,000 loans were flagged for potential fraud as of early 2021. This alarming figure has prompted the Department of Justice (DOJ) to launch an extensive crackdown on PPP loan fraud. 

Significant PPP Loan Fraud Prosecution Cases

  • Johnathan Peters: In January 2024, Johnathan Peters, a small business owner from California, was sentenced to seven years in federal prison for fraudulently obtaining $6 million in PPP loans. Peters used false tax documents and payroll records to secure the loans, which he then used for personal expenses, including purchasing a yacht and multiple properties. 
  • Angela Martinez: In February 2024, Angela Martinez, a restaurateur from Texas, was convicted of wire fraud and bank fraud after securing $8 million in PPP loans using fake employee rosters and fabricated payroll information. Martinez funneled the money into offshore accounts and luxury assets. She was sentenced to nine years in federal prison. 
  • Robert and Lisa Thompson: This Florida couple was charged in March 2024 with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering after obtaining $10 million in PPP loans for several non-existent businesses. The Thompsons used the funds to buy high-end real estate and luxury vehicles. Both were sentenced to ten years in federal prison. 
  • David Kim: In April 2024, David Kim, a tech entrepreneur from New York, was sentenced to six and a half years in federal prison for submitting multiple PPP loan applications using fictitious business names and fake documentation. Kim acquired $5 million, which he used to buy cryptocurrency and other high-risk investments. 
  • Patricia Williams: In May 2024, Patricia Williams, an owner of several beauty salons in Georgia, was found guilty of PPP fraud after inflating her businesses’ payroll expenses to obtain $4.5 million in loans. Williams used the funds for personal luxuries, including international travel and high-end jewelry. She was sentenced to seven years in federal prison. 


Read More > What is the False Claims Act Under PPP Loan Investigations? 

The Importance of Experienced Legal Defense 

As the DOJ intensifies its efforts to prosecute PPP loan fraud, individuals and businesses facing charges need the most experienced and skilled legal representation available to protect themselves from over-zealous prosecutors and unfair prosecutions. These cases involve intricate financial data and complex legal nuances that require the hones skills of a seasoned federal criminal defense lawyer.  

Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, based in Florida, offers specialized knowledge in handling PPP fraud cases, providing a strategic advantage born from years of courtroom experience for federal defendants. 

Effective Defenses to PPP Fraud Charges 

Defending against PPP fraud charges requires a thorough understanding of the law and a strategic approach. Some of the most effective defenses are: 

Lack of Intent: Demonstrating that the defendant did not knowingly submit false information. This can involve proving that any inaccuracies were due to mistakes or misunderstandings rather than deliberate deceit. 

Legitimate Business Operations: Showing that the business was legitimate, and the funds were used appropriately. Detailed financial records and testimony from employees or business partners can strongly support this defense. 

Insufficient Evidence: Challenging the sufficiency and admissibility of the evidence presented by the prosecution. This usually involves questioning the accuracy of financial records or the methods used to gather evidence, as well as the competence and integrity of the government’s witnesses. 

Compliance with SBA Guidelines: Arguing that the defendant complied with the SBA’s guidelines for PPP loan applications. This defense can be particularly effective if the guidelines were ambiguous or changed frequently during the loan application process. Many honest PPP Loan applicants were guilty of innocent errors that resulted in their unintentional receipt of more funds than they otherwise would be qualified for. Mistaken entries or errors resulting from confusion are not criminal. 


Getting an Experienced PPP Loan Criminal Defense Firm is Critical 

As the government continues to uncover and prosecute fraudulent activities, those facing charges must secure a qualified federal criminal defense lawyer. Stechschulte Nell, Attorneys at Law, possesses the necessary experience to handle the complexities of PPP fraud cases and mount an effective defense. With life-changing lengthy federal prison sentences at stake, having an experienced legal team can make a critical difference in the outcome of these cases. 

Worried you may be under scrutiny for PPP loan fraud? Contact us today at 813-280-1244 for a case review.  

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