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Fort Myers Business Owner Indicted by Grand Jury for COVID-19 Relief Fraud

miquel-gelabert-bRGy5Wd5BB4-unsplash-300x200A federal grand jury returned an indictment last Wednesday charging a Fort Myers man who allegedly used nearly $700,000 he received from a federal COVID-19 relief program to buy a 40-foot catamaran.

Casey David Crowther, 35, of North Fort Myers was charged with one count of bank fraud, one count of making a false statement to a lending institution, and two counts of illegal monetary transactions. He was released on $100,000 bond.

According to the indictment, the indicted is the owner of Target Roofing & Sheet Metal, Inc. In April 2020, he allegedly made false and misleading statements when he applied for a Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loan on behalf of his company.

The PPP is a federal COVID-19 relief program that was authorized by Congress in March 2020. The loans, which were backed by the Small Business Administration, were meant to provide emergency assistance to American businesses struggling in the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Congress appropriated hundreds of billions of dollars in forgivable loans for small businesses that must be used for payroll costs, rent, interest on mortgages, and utility payments.

The defendant allegedly falsely certified that the loan he sought would only be used for business-related expenses, such as retaining workers, maintaining payroll, and making mortgage, lease, and utility payments. His loan was approved and funded, and he allegedly received $2,098,700 in PPP funds.

Within days of receiving the funds, he reportedly spent approximately $689,417 to purchase a 40-foot catamaran boat, which he registered under his name. This alleged misuse of the funds led to his arrest on the charges filed against him this month. The federal government is now seeking forfeiture of the remaining funds as well as the catamaran.

The arrested man from Fort Myers pleaded not guilty during his arraignment on Wednesday. He claimed his company had used the funds it received for their intended purpose, sources indicate. If convicted, he could face from 10 to 30 years in federal prison.

This isn’t the first alleged incident of a business owner being charged for fraudulently receiving PPP loans. In July, a Miami man was charged for purportedly receiving $3.9 million in PPP loans and using the funds to buy luxury goods, including a Lamborghini.

Fraud is a serious offense that encompasses a broad array of criminal activities, but it is generally defined as a willful misrepresentation or omission of material fact for personal or financial gain. Even though a federal indictment is merely a formal charge and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven otherwise in court, allegations of fraud can irreparably ruin a person’s career and reputation.

The penalties for federal fraud crimes are also often much more severe than penalties for state fraud charges, which is why it is imperative for any Florida business owner suspected of committing federal fraud to immediately contact an experienced defense attorney who can ensure their constitutional rights are protected.

Florida Fraud Defense Attorney

Are you accused of committing fraud involving federal COVID-19 relief programs in Florida? Contact Brian Silber, P.A. to set up a free initial consultation with one of South Florida’s most experienced fraud defense attorneys.

Source: 9.24.20 Fort Myers business owner indicted for COVID-19 relief fraud.pdf

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