Harlan County man David Christopher Lewis sentenced to 33 months for fraudulently obtaining COVID relief loans
A Harlan, Ky., man, David Christopher Lewis49, was sentenced to 33 months in federal prison on Thursday by U.S. District Judge Robert E. Wier, after pleading guilty to wire fraud, for obtaining Paycheck Protection Program loans under false pretences.
According to his plea agreement, in May 2020, Lewis submitted two fraudulent applications for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans on behalf of Bubba Fest, LLC and Elite Artists Agency, LLC. The two ventures were tied to a “comic con” style event called Bubba Fest that Lewis had hosted in previous years. The Paycheck Protection Program was created as part of the CARES Act, legislation passed in March 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Paycheck Protection Program loans were designed to incentivize small businesses to keep workers on their payroll during the pandemic; these loans would be canceled by the US Small Business Administration, if the borrower determined that the loan proceeds were being used for payroll, rent, or other approved business expenses. The amount of the loan depended on the company’s payroll.
As part of his fraudulent PPP loan applications, Lewis provided the bank, First State Bank of the Southeast, with false tax documents and payroll records misrepresenting the company’s employee count and salary expenses. As a result, he obtained a fraudulent PPP loan for each company totaling $370,000.
Evidence admitted at Lewis’s sentencing hearing established that between May 26 and August 28, 2020, Lewis paid himself or his wife more than $100,000 of the PPP loan. In his plea agreement, Lewis also admitted to obstructing the FBI’s investigation of his crime by providing a sworn affidavit that lied about the existence and location of the companies’ employment and payroll records.
Under federal law, Lewis must serve at least 85% of his prison sentence. Upon his release from prison, he will be placed under the supervision of the US Probation Office for three years. In addition to the jail sentence, Lewis was ordered to pay $370,000 in restitution to the First State Bank of the Southeast.
Carlton S. Shier, IV, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Kentucky, and Jodi Cohen, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Louisville Field Office, jointly announced the sentencing. The investigation was led by the FBI. The United States was represented by Assistant United States Attorney Paul McCaffrey.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to mobilize Department of Justice resources in partnership with government agencies to scale up enforcement and prevention efforts. pandemic-related fraud. The task force strengthens efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies administering relief programs to prevent fraud, among other methods, by increasing and integrating coordination mechanisms existing ones, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their agendas, and sharing and leveraging information and knowledge gained from previous enforcement efforts.