On December 8, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia announced that Brandon Ridge had been sentenced to two years in prison for fraudulently obtaining loans from the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”). Ridge had previously pled guilty to bank fraud in connection with a scheme to fraudulently obtain a $160,000 PPP loan. Among other things, Ridge used the money obtained to purchase a Range Rover SUV.
Initially, Ridge had submitted two PPP loan applications requesting a total of just under $450,000; however, only one of those applications was accepted. Ridge included fabricated bank statements in the applications that falsely represented the income of the business. Rather than use the funds obtained to fund his business during the pandemic, Ridge used the funds for personal use. Along with his two-year prison sentence, Ridge was sentenced to three years supervised release and forfeiture of both the Range Rover and over $100,000 in ill-gotten funds.
COVID relief fund fraud has been a focus of the Department of Justice since the various programs’ inceptions. In May of this year, the Department established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to investigate claims of fraud against these programs. Along with criminal fraud charges, individuals and entities who have engaged in fraudulent activity in connection with COVID relief funds face potential liability under the False Claims Act. If found liable under the False Claims Act, defendants potentially face damages triple the amount that they actually received from the COVID relief funds.
The attorneys at Chilivis Grubman represent clients of all types and sizes in connection with white-collar criminal investigations, False Claims Act investigations, and related commercial litigation. If you need assistance with such a matter, please contact us today.