As a small business owner, you thought you qualified for a loan under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), now you are being investigated for fraud. What did you do wrong? We are all tired of the phrase “uncertain times,” but when it comes to defending coronavirus-related fraud charges, there is a lot of uncertainty. If you are charged with a federal crime for taking a PPP loan, put an experienced federal defense attorney to work for you.
Why Are You Being Investigated?
In the rush to enact an aid package, a lot of mistakes were made with the rollout of stimulus checks and PPP loans. Likewise, very little guidance was provided to small businesses applying for loans. It is possible that your business got money it shouldn’t have, or that you are using the money you got in an impermissible way. You might not even know that you are breaking the law. Several possible areas of infraction include:
Applicants must sign off on the following statement: “Current economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations of the applicant.” What qualifies as “necessary” and what “ongoing operations” are is unclear. If you are audited, and the investigator believes you don’t meet these standards, you could be charged with fraud.
Use of funds
The point of the Paycheck Protection Program is to help with payroll. As such, you can use the funds to pay current employees, hire new employees, make back payments, and pay bonuses. You cannot use the money to pay yourself as the business owner, pay taxes, pay contractors, or pay off debt. Any suspicious use of PPP funds may be investigated.
Misrepresentation on the application
Even honest applicants could misrepresent their situation on the PPP application. Common mistakes included misclassifying employees as contractors and misstating the number of employees you have.
There was a belief early on that PPP was an opportunity for “free money” and that every business was eligible. Quick approvals and fast payments added to the misconception. After uncovering blatant examples of fraud, the Department of Justice vowed to investigate and prosecute anyone taking advantage of the system for their own gain. Their determination to uncover fraud means that they could overreach and file charges where they are not justified.
Do You Find Yourself In Need Of A Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer?
If you've recently found yourself in need of an experienced criminal defense attorney in Miami you should contact me as soon as possible. Please feel free to contact me online or to call my Coral Gables office directly at 305.707.7345. You can also request my free book "The Ultimate Guide To Fighting Criminal Charges In Florida", a detailed download discussing the myths, rumors and hearsay often associated with criminal charges, what to expect from your criminal court proceedings and important steps you must take to battle your charges.