Since September 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) has made several announcements related to former NFL players pleading guilty to defrauding healthcare and COVID-19 relief programs.
For example, in September, Chilivis Grubman attorneys discussed former NFL players pleading guilty to defrauding a health care program set up by the NFL to benefit former players. The health care program entitled former NFL players to tax-free reimbursement of up to $350,000 in medical expenses. Weeks later, CG attorneys discussed former NFL player, Kenbrell Thompkins, pleading guilty to identity theft and fraud involving COVID-19 relief funds. According to the government, Mr. Thompkins used the protected personal information of Florida residents to obtain prepaid debit cards from California loaded with funds from California’s unemployment insurance, which included CARES Act funds.
On December 10, 2021, the DOJ issued a press release regarding another former NFL player who has pled guilty to and was recently sentenced for defrauding a COVID-19 relief program. Former NFL player, Joshua J. Bellamy, and a Florida woman, Yashica Bain, were sentenced to federal prison for their involvement in a scheme to defraud the PPP loan program. PPP loans, originally introduced by the CARES Act in April 2020, are government-backed, low-interest private loans for which certain eligible small businesses may apply. PPP loan funds may be used to assist with payroll, rent, utilities, and other eligible expenses.
According to the government, Mr. Bellamy used false information and falsified documents to obtain a PPP loan of $1,246,565 for his company, Drip Entertainment LLC. Mr. Bellamy used the PPP funds on personal items, like jewelry and a stay at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. He also sought to obtain PPP loans for his family members and close associates. As part of the scheme, Mr. Bellamy also admitted to paying more than $300,000 to James Stote, a co-conspirator who assisted in preparing and submitting the fraudulent applications.
Ms. Yashica Bain also pled guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Similar to Mr. Bellamy, Ms. Bain used falsified documents and false information to obtain over $415,000 in PPP proceeds. While the PPP loan proceeds were for her company, Microblading Brow Studio LLC, the government noted that she used the funds “to enrich herself and others who never worked for her company.” Ms. Bain also admitted to paying Mr. Stote over $28,000 for preparing and submitting the fraudulent loan application.
For his role in the scheme, Mr. Bellamy was sentenced to over 3 years (37 months) in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release. He must pay $1,246,565 in restitution and forfeiture. Ms. Bain was sentenced to two years in federal prison, followed by three years of supervised release for her role in the scheme. She must pay $415,232 in restitution and forfeiture.
Since the CARES Act’s inception, the DOJ Criminal Division’s Fraud Section “has prosecuted over 150 defendants in more than 95 criminal cases and has seized over $75 million in cash proceeds derived from fraudulently obtained PPP funds, as well as numerous real estate properties and luxury items purchased with such proceeds.” And there are no indications that the government’s enforcement efforts will subside.
The attorneys at Chilivis Grubman represent clients of all types and sizes in connection with white-collar criminal investigations and health care fraud investigations. If you need assistance with such a matter, please contact us today.