Coral Springs man sentenced over COVID loan program • Coral Springs Talk

By Kevin Deutsch

A Coral Springs man pleaded guilty this week in Ohio to leading a national program to fraudulently obtain more than $ 35 million in loans from the COVID-19 Paycheck Protection Program, federal prosecutors have said.

According to court documents, Phillip J. Augustin, 52, conspired to obtain millions of dollars in fraudulent PPP loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration. Along with James R. Stote, 55, of Hollywood, Augustine first secured a fraudulent PPP loan for his company, Clear Vision Music Group LLC, using forged documents, prosecutors said.

After submitting this PPP application, Augustine and Stote immediately began work to secure larger PPP loans for themselves and their associates, prosecutors said.

“They recruited additional PPP loan applicants and prepared and submitted fraudulent loan applications for them in exchange for a share of the loan proceeds,” according to a press release from the Justice Department. “The claims they submitted for all of the program’s loans were based on fake payroll numbers, forged IRS forms, and fake bank statements. They submitted or facilitated at least 79 fraudulent loan applications valued at at least $ 35 million and planned to submit more.

Stote and Augustin pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit wire fraud. Each faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison at the time of conviction.

In a related case, Diamond Smith, 37, of Miramar, who paid bribes to Augustine and Stote for their assistance in the PPP fraud, was sentenced this week to 20 months in prison after pleading guilty on August 4 to a conspiracy to commit wire fraud, prosecutors mentioned.

Smith, a recording artist, admitted to securing a PPP loan of $ 426,717 for his company, LLC, using forged documents and false information. After this loan, Smith applied for and obtained another PPP loan of $ 708,065 for his other company, Blue Star Records LLC, using forged documents and false information.

Smith admitted to using the proceeds from the PPP loan at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and on luxury items, including a Ferrari. Authorities say they seized the Ferrari when Smith was arrested.

According to prosecutors, Smith admitted to paying Augustine and Stote more than $ 250,000 in bribes for their assistance in preparing and submitting fraudulent loan applications.

Smith was ordered to pay $ 1,111,345.23 in restitution and $ 1,134,782 in forfeiture in addition to his jail term, prosecutors said.

Juan Antonio Gonzalez, U.S. District Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, has signaled that more PPP fraud prosecutions from his office are pending.

“Our job is not finished,” Gonzalez said in a prepared statement. “We will continue to hold accountable those who wrongly obtain funds to help struggling small businesses survive the current health and economic crisis.” “

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 Enforcement (NCDF) hotline at 866-720 -5721 or via the NCDF online complaint form at

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Kevin deutsch
Kevin deutsch

Kevin Deutsch is an award-winning criminal journalist and author. A graduate of Florida International University, Kevin has served on staff for the Miami Herald, the New York Daily News, and the Palm Beach Post.

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