A 35-year-old man has been charged in North Carolina with inventing businesses to qualify for pandemic relief and robbing a bank, then spending the money to buy cryptocurrency and pay bills.
Spenc’r Denard Rickerson, of Claremont, North Carolina, is facing charges of bank robbery and wire fraud in the Western District of North Carolina, according to unsealed federal court documents Tuesday, March 22. . The case centers on allegations that Rickerson made numerous false applications for loans during the COVID-19 pandemic and robbed a bank in nearby Newton.
Claremont, home to about 1,500 residents, is about 43 miles north of Charlotte. Prosecutors said he previously lived and worked in Mooresville, about 30 miles from Charlotte.
Rickerson is in federal custody and could not be reached for comment on March 22, and information about his defense attorney was not immediately available.
According to the indictment, Rickerson worked for a company in Mooresville and lived in Claremont and Mooresville from 2018 to 2020. He was furloughed just before the pandemic hit in March 2020.
Rickerson received intermittent unemployment benefits over the next year, prosecutors said.
Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act around the same time Rickerson stopped working. The package included billions of dollars in forgivable loans for small businesses known as the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, and an expansion of the Economic Disaster Loan Program, or EIDL.
In June 2020, the government said, Rickerson submitted an EIDL application in which he claimed to run a business in the “business services” sector. He received a $53,400 loan as a result, which prosecutors said he spent largely on cash withdrawals and buying cryptocurrency.
Rickerson unsuccessfully attempted to file several more EIDL claims in January 2021, prosecutors said, before switching to the Paycheck Protection Program in March 2021.
According to the indictment, Rickerson claimed to run a single-family home building business and said he needed PPP funds to cover salary expenses. The government later gave him $20,833.
Just two days before filing that request, prosecutors said Rickerson robbed a BB&T bank on Main Avenue in Newton.
The Justice Department didn’t say how much money he took in the bank robbery, but Rickerson was ultimately charged with stealing more than $74,200 in COVID-19 relief.
Court documents show he was arrested on Monday March 21 and his next court appearance will be on March 25.
If convicted, Rickerson faces up to 20 years in federal prison for wire fraud and 25 years for bank robbery.
The indictment follows similar charges against a Charlotte woman, Nkhenge Shropshire, who is accused of filing at least 10 fraudulent EIDL applications. A grand jury indicted Shropshire on Thursday, March 17 – the same day a federal jury in Charlotte convicted a local restaurateur and his son of stealing $1.7 million in pandemic relief from taxpayers.