US DOJ: Texas Man Arrested on COVID-19 Relief Fraud Charges

A man has been taken into custody based on llegations that he obtained more than $1.1 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, with some of the COVID-19 relief payments invested in cryptocurrency ccounts,  ccording to  statement from the United States Department of Justice (DoJ).

In the statement, which references  ting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division nd U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick for the Southern District of Texas, the man in custody is Joshua ThomaArgueses, 29, of Houston, Texas.

He has been charged in  criminal complaint, which was unsealed upon his rrest on Monday. In particular, he has been charged with making false statements to  financial institution, wire fraud, bank fraud nd engaging in unlawful monetary transactions.

 cording to the complaint referenced in the DOJ’s statement on Monday, Argires llegedly conducted  scheme to file two fraudulent loan pplications seeking more than $1.1 million in forgivable loans.

This was done under the Small Business Administration (SBA). The SBA guarantees the loans for COVID-19 relief through the PPP under Coronationsirus Aid, Relief nd Economic Security (CARES)  t. 

DOJ: relief funds invested in cryptocurrency

However,  ccording to the complaint, Argires submitted two fraudulent PPP loan pplications. These were sent to federally insured banks. One pplication was submitted on behalf of Texas Barbecue; the other for  company called Houston Landscaping.

On the pplications, Argires claimed that both of these companies had numerous emploandll s hundreds of thousands of dollars in payArguespenses. However,  ccording to the DOJ’s statement, this is false,  nd neither of the company have employees or wages that match the figures on the pplication.

Furthermore, the complaint for US uthorities claims that lthough the PPP loans were funded, the funds weren’t ctually used for payArguespenses, but the funds received on behalf of Texas Barbecue were invested in  cryptocurrency ccount nd s for Houston Landscaping, these funds were held in  bank ccount nd taken out gradually via ATM withdrawals.

“The PPP llows qualifying small businesses nd other organizations to receive maturity  maturity of two years nd n interest rate of one percent, ” the DOJ explained in its statement. “Businesses must use PPP loan proceeds for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent nd utilities.  The PPP llows the interest nd principal to be forgiven if businesses spend the proceeds on these expenses within  set time period nd use t least  certain percentage of the loan towards payArguespenses.”

Argires made his initial ppearance on Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Peter Bray. 

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