Hiring a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney with experience handling federal fraud cases is one of the most important steps you will take when confronted with a PPP fraud federal investigation or federal indictment. The Department of Justice is casting a wide net when it comes to rooting out abuse of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and investigating businesses that allegedly obtained fraudulent funds through the federal loan program and your company could be at risk. If you are targeted by a PPP fraud audit or investigation, you could face civil penalties and potential criminal prosecution by the federal government. Even if you believe you have complied with the terms of the federal loan program, the wide scope of the DOJ’s PPP fraud probe could end up entangling you in a federal criminal investigation, which could wreak havoc on your reputation. Individualized legal representation is critical in federal fraud cases, because no two cases are alike, so don’t settle for anything less than the best. Contact our experienced federal PPP fraud defense attorneys today to get the help you need.
What if I am the target of a PPP fraud investigation? How is a PPP loan different from an SBA disaster loan? What happens if a portion of the loan is not forgiven?
First and Foremost, Do Your Research
For business owners across the U.S. faced with allegations of PPP loan fraud, criminal prosecution can result in life-changing criminal penalties, which is why it is so important to seek qualified legal counsel as soon as you become aware of a PPP fraud investigation or audit involving you or your business. Timing is critical, but keep in mind that your choice of legal counsel can make or break your case, so be sure to do your research before making any decisions about who will represent you. Ask for recommendations from friends and family members who experienced similar problems, read client testimonials and look up the firm’s past results in cases that are comparable to yours. Many lawyers specialize in a particular area of the law and you want to make sure your attorney has relevant legal experience and a record of success achieving favorable outcomes for clients.
What is the Next Step?
Once you have narrowed down your choices, it is a good idea to meet with a few of the attorneys on your list before choosing who will represent you in your federal PPP fraud case. Many firms, ours included, offer prospective clients a free initial consultation, which gives you the opportunity to decide which attorney you are most comfortable with. You may not get much in-depth legal advice during an initial consultation, but you can get some valuable information about:
- The attorney’s background and experience in federal criminal defense
- How many federal fraud cases the attorney has handled
- How long the attorney has been practicing law
- The average verdict the attorney has obtained in cases like yours
- The legal strategies the attorney would use for your case
- Your chances of success or what outcome the attorney expects
- How long it will take for your case to be resolved
- How much you can expect to pay in legal fees
- Who will handle your case
Choosing the Right PPP Fraud Attorney
The defense attorney you choose to represent you in your PPP fraud case will be your strongest legal advocate and your closest ally. He will advise you on the best legal strategies for your specific situation. He will protect your rights and best interests and represent you in court, if necessary, so it is imperative that you think carefully about who you want on your side when facing a PPP fraud investigation or criminal charges. PPP fraud is a federal offense and the consequences of fraud charges can change the course of your entire life. The federal statutes the Department of Justice is invoking to file charges in PPP loan cases are broadly defined and come with harsh criminal penalties, possibly including decades in prison and upwards of $1,000,000 in fines. The federal government has shown that it will take advantage of every opportunity to make an example of those suspected of committing PPP loan fraud and you will need a steadfast criminal defense lawyer on your side if you hope to avoid criminal prosecution.
What is Paycheck Protection Program Fraud?
The federal Paycheck Protection Program has been instrumental in helping small business owners across the country deal with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. Not only does the loan program provide much-needed funds intended to help struggling business owners cover their payroll costs and eligible business expenses during COVID-19, thereby allowing them to keep their workforce employed and their business operations running, it also gives recipients the opportunity to have the loan completely forgiven so long as they comply with the program’s stipulations for loan forgiveness. Unfortunately, when the Paycheck Protection Program was first introduced, there were so many loan applications submitted in so little time and so few safeguards in place, that many businesses that may not have met the criteria for the PPP ended up receiving loans, some for millions of dollars. This led to significant scrutiny focused on the federal loan program and the businesses that obtained PPP funds, and prompted a series of federal fraud investigations by the Department of Justice, which are currently underway. The SBA also recently announced that it would be auditing all PPP loans above $2 million to ensure that they were obtained in good faith. With PPP fraud investigations and audits ongoing, facing potential criminal charges for PPP fraud remains a significant risk.
Facing Federal Charges for PPP Loan Fraud
The DOJ is joining forces with other federal investigative agencies to combat fraud related to obtaining forgivable PPP loans guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. In early May, two Rhode Island businessmen were arrested for allegedly attempting to fraudulently obtain more than half a million dollars in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans. The arrests marked the first in the country over allegations of fraud involving the PPP, and since then, as many as 15 individuals in 11 states have been charged with PPP fraud. According to the U.S. Attorney General, the DOJ will “prioritize the detection, investigation, and prosecution of all criminal conduct related to the current pandemic,” and there will likely be a great deal of collaboration between federal agencies to identify possible PPP fraud and bring those accused of committing fraud to justice.
The Department of Justice is pursuing a wide range of federal charges in cases involving PPP loan fraud, including bank fraud, wire fraud, identity theft, making false statements to the SBA, making false statements to a financial institution, and others. The investigation and enforcement of PPP fraud by the DOJ and other federal agencies is likely to focus on the following allegations:
- Providing false or misleading information on the PPP loan application in order to fraudulently qualify for funds,
- Misrepresenting the amount of PPP funds needed,
- Using PPP funds for unauthorized purposes, and
- Making false certifications on the application for PPP loan forgiveness.
How an Experienced PPP Fraud Attorney Can Help
The intense scrutiny of loans distributed under the Paycheck Protection Program is expected to increase in the coming weeks and months, as business owners who received funds under the federal loan program begin to apply for loan forgiveness. If you obtained a PPP loan and you are concerned about loan compliance, you should immediately consult a federal criminal defense attorney without waiting to be contacted by federal agents. The best way to protect yourself in the event of a PPP fraud investigation is to take a proactive approach and hire a PPP loan fraud defense attorney right away. If you have already received a subpoena or investigative inquiry from any federal law enforcement agency regarding a Paycheck Protection Program application or loan, you will want to immediately consult with an attorney who can assess your potential criminal exposure and craft a timely and compliant response to the inquiry. The federal government is aggressively investigating allegations of PPP fraud and pursuing criminal charges against alleged offenders, so don’t wait to get legal help from a knowledgeable PPP attorney.
Contact Our PPP Fraud Defense Experts Today
The federal government’s collective efforts to investigate and prosecute loan fraud in connection with the Paycheck Protection Program has been aggressive and exhaustive, and in the short amount of time that has passed since the PPP was launched, more than a dozen businesses and business owners have been charged with PPP fraud. If you received a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program, you must be prepared to prove that you fully complied with the terms and conditions of the loan program in order to avoid allegations of PPP fraud. If you are under investigation for PPP loan fraud, or if you are facing fraud charges, our reputable criminal defense attorneys can offer sound legal advice and guidance based on your unique circumstances. Our PPP attorneys have a great deal of experience dealing with federal investigations and criminal prosecutions and we can custom tailor a winning defense strategy based on the specific facts of your case.