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Phoenix COVID Relief Fraud Lawyer

Defending Against PPP, EIDL, and UI Fraud Charges

COVID relief fraud refers to any act or scheme to defraud the U.S. Government of funds expressly set aside to provide emergency financial assistance during the coronavirus pandemic. Several types of conduct can fall under this term, including Paycheck Protection Program fraud and unemployment insurance fraud. Because these fraudulent acts involve programs established and enacted by Congress, they are considered federal crimes and prosecuted by the federal government. Anyone accused of COVID relief fraud in any form may be extensively investigated and face severe consequences. As such, it would be beneficial for those charged to retain legal counsel as quickly as possible.

At Knowles Law Firm, PLC, our Phoenix COVID relief fraud attorney is ready to defend you against serious federal crime charges. With a former police officer and former prosecutors on our team, we recognize that overzealous law enforcement officials can wrongly suspect someone of an offense or overstep their authority when investigating or prosecuting. We are here to protect your rights and can fight to seek a favorable outcome on your behalf. By delivering personalized legal representation and learning about the situation from your perspective, we can develop an individualized defense strategy for your case.

To schedule a consultation with our COVID relief fraud lawyer in Phoenix, please call us at (602) 702-5431 or contact us online today.

Economic Responses to the COVID Pandemic

In the early months of 2020, the U.S. Government responded to the COVID pandemic by enacting several pieces of legislation to help those economically impacted and stimulate the economy. One of the most substantial bills Congress approved was the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Securities (CARES) Act.

Enacted in March of 2020, CARES provided emergency financial relief for individuals, businesses, and state, local, and tribal governments. Two significant provisions of the CARES Act included the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) program.

The PPP allowed businesses to apply for low-interest rate loans to be used for:

  • Payroll costs
  • Interest on mortgages
  • Rent
  • Utilities

The loan could be forgiven if the proceeds were used within a specified period and a certain percentage put toward payroll expenses.

The EIDL provided loans to small businesses, agricultural, and non-profit entities.

In addition to the PPP and EIDL, the federal government also approved the Families First Coronavirus Response (FFCR) Act. The FFCR earmarked $860 billion in federal funds for unemployment insurance (UI) and gave states greater flexibility in issuing benefits. The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program also allowed individuals who may not have normally qualified for unemployment benefits to be considered for assistance.

During a time of great uncertainty and financial struggles, the programs mentioned above were very appealing options for many people and businesses suffering the adverse economic effects of the pandemic. Millions of individuals and business owners legitimately applied for and received aid. Unfortunately, a few people submitted false applications or misused funds, committing what is now known as COVID relief fraud.

What May Be Considered COVID Relief Fraud?

Several types of conduct may constitute COVID relief fraud. An act may fall under this term if it involves behavior resulting in the wrongful payout of loan proceeds or unemployment benefits or the use of funds for things other than those intended.

Examples of COVID relief fraud include, but are not limited to:

  • PPP and EIDL Fraud: This type of fraud can be carried out in various ways. For example, a person might use false or misleading statements about business expenses, employee obligations, or taxes. Or someone might submit multiple loan applications containing identical information but filed for different companies. Another way PPP or EIDL fraud may be committed is by using proceeds for personal items instead of business-related expenses.
  • Unemployment Insurance Fraud: As with PPP and EIDL fraud, UI fraud can be committed in several ways. For instance, a person may be accused of using stolen identities to obtain UI benefits or making transactions with UI debit cards issued in other people’s names.
  • Identity Fraud: This type of conduct may be considered COVID relief fraud if it involves using others’ identities to apply for and/or obtain PPP or EIDL loans or UI benefits. Often, it is carried out by hacking into social media accounts or using phishing schemes to unlawfully get personal, financial, or business information.

Regardless of the type of conduct you have been accused of, it’s crucial that you speak with our Phoenix COVID relief fraud lawyer about your case. We will thoroughly analyze the evidence and review everything that happened throughout the investigation to determine defenses that may be raised on your behalf. Our knowledgeable and skilled team can clearly explain courses of action to challenge your charge.

Who Investigates COVID Relief Fraud?

The federal government will investigate any allegation of COVID relief fraud. Several committees and task forces were developed and expanded upon to specifically look into these types of matters. For instance, the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) uses data analytics and technology to identify potential fraud. The Fraud Section, which has experience investigating complex fraud schemes, reviews cases involving PPP fraud and has prosecuted over 150 defendants in more than 95 cases. Additionally, the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force, established in May of 2021, employs a coordinated effort to combat fraud involving COVID relief programs.

If you have been suspected of committing COVID relief fraud, you can expect the federal government to conduct a full and lengthy investigation. You need an advocate on your side ready to expend a considerable amount of effort and resources to build a defense for you.

At Knowles Law Firm, PLC, we are thorough in preparing for cases. Our team examines every avenue and will leave no stone unturned as we determine how to defend our clients. When you choose us, your case will be in competent hands.

What Are the Penalties for COVID Relief Fraud?

COVID relief fraud is not a separate statute in the U.S. Code. Instead, it is prosecuted under various federal laws, depending on its conduct. Therefore, the penalties someone could face if convicted of COVID relief fraud will be tied to the specific crime they were charged with.

Below are some of the potential charges and punishments for COVID relief fraud:

  • Aggravated identity theft: Transferring, using, or possessing another’s identification in relation to any statutorily specified felony. Those convicted could face a 2-year prison term in addition to that imposed for the underlying felony.
  • Bank fraud: A scheme to defraud a financial institution or obtain money, assets, or other property under the bank’s control. It’s punishable by imprisonment for up to 30 years and/or a fine of up to $1,000,000.
  • Conspiracy: Two or more persons planning to commit an offense against or defraud the U.S. Government. If found guilty, those involved could receive a prison sentence of not more than 5 years.
  • Engaging in transactions in unlawful proceeds: Knowingly making a transaction involving criminally derived funds. A conviction can result in imprisonment for not more than 10 years.
  • False statements: Knowingly falsifying or concealing material facts, making false statements, or using a document containing materially false information. The offense is penalized by up to 5 years of imprisonment.
  • Money laundering: Engaging in financial transactions with criminally derived proceeds to further criminal activity, commit tax fraud, conceal the source of the funds, or avoid reporting requirements. The punishments include imprisonment for up to 20 years.
  • Unauthorized access device fraud: Using, producing, or possessing counterfeit debit/credit cards, account numbers, personal identification numbers, or any other access device. The punishment includes up to 10 years of imprisonment.
  • Wire and mail fraud: Furthering a scheme to defraud using electronic communications, the United States Postal Service, or a commercial carrier. Penalties include a maximum prison term of 20 years. However, if the act occurred during a Presidentially declared disaster or emergency or affects a financial institution, the sentence is increased to up to 30 years of imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $1,000,000.

By fighting your charge, you can seek to avoid or minimize the penalties for COVID relief fraud. Reach out to our team for help mounting an aggressive defense.

Schedule a Consultation to Discuss Your COVID Relief Fraud Case

At Knowles Law Firm, PLC, we provide high-quality legal service. When you choose us, you will get the comprehensive and insightful representation you need throughout your case. Our team will ensure that your voice is heard and will vigorously defend you in and out of court.

Learn more about how our Phoenix COVID relief fraud lawyer can help by contacting us at (602) 702-5431.

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