Tampa Man Facing Charges Related To Defrauding COVID Relief Measures
A grand jury has indicted Christopher Guy on charges of stealing $170,000 of COVID relief funds earmarked for federal unemployment support and small businesses. He is facing charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, access device fraud, possession of unauthorized access devices, and aggravated identity theft.
According to authorities, Guy and several coconspirators submitted fraudulent unemployment applications to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission using the personal information of identity theft victims. The conspirators used mailing addresses that were easy for them to access and received prepaid debit cards through the U.S. Postal Service. The payments were made available through The CARES Act and the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program. They illegally obtained $176,970, according to federal prosecutors. Guy faces a potential maximum sentence of 47 years.
18 U.S. Code § 1040 increases the penalties of regular fraud if the individual was engaged in fraud against an emergency relief program. The criminal aspect of the complaint is that the defendant submitted false information to illegally procure government relief money. This required the use of computer or telephone communications and the U.S. Postal Service. Further, in order to actuate the fraud, the defendant needed access to equipment that it was illegal for him to possess. The aggravated identity theft charge will tack on an extra two years to any sentence that is handed down, to be served consecutively.
While the defendant is facing nearly 50 years in prison, his sentence is unlikely to be that long. Nonetheless, he could be facing nearly two decades behind bars.
COVID relief fraud cases
The federal government asked the U.S. banking system to help them be on the lookout for suspicious deposit activity. So, essentially, it’s the banks that are reporting suspicious activity to the federal government to help protect the program from those who would use it fraudulently.
In cases of unemployment fraud, a fraudster would use stolen personal information to set up bank accounts in the victim’s name. They would then apply for unemployment or an SBA loan using the stolen information. In some cases, shell companies have been set up just to procure loans from the government. In other cases, fraudsters use identity theft to set up bank accounts in other people’s name. However, the money must get into their hands somehow. So, if the government can trace the address, they can trace those who are picking up the prepaid cards. It isn’t a good idea to defraud the federal government of disaster relief funds. Federal prosecutors tend to take that quite personally.
Talk to a Tampa Federal Defense Attorney
If you’re facing federal charges related to wire or mail fraud, call Tampa criminal lawyers at The Matassini Law Firm today and allow us to begin preparing your defense immediately.