Houston man charged in connection with fraudulent scheme to get money from COVID-19 relief funds

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HOUSTON – A Houston man has been taken into custody after fraudulently seeking money from forgivable loans meant to help businesses suffering in the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Department of Justice.

According to the DOJ, Joshua Thomas Argires, 29, is charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, making false statements to a financial institution and engaging in an unlawful monetary transaction.

Argires reportedly made two fraudulent applications to federally insured banks seeking more than $1.1 million in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program.

“One of these applications was submitted on behalf of an entity called Texas Barbecue. The other was filed on behalf of a company called Houston Landscaping,” the DOJ said. “Argires allegedly claimed these two companies had numerous employees and hundreds of thousands of dollars in payroll expenses.”

However, according to the DOJ, the amount claimed on the applications was not consistent with the actual number of employees or the amount in paid wages.

Argires received the money, but according to the DOJ, the funds were not used for payroll or any of the other expenses stipulated under the PPP. Instead, some of the funds were used to invest in a cryptocurrency account, and the rest was put in a bank account and slowly depleted via ATM withdrawals, the DOJ said.

In May, another Texas man was arrested in connection with a similar fraudulent scheme. He sought $5 million through the Paycheck Protection Program by claiming he had over 400 employees and a $2 million monthly payroll, according to the DOJ. Yates was also able to get over $500,000 from another lender by claiming he had over 100 employees, the DOJ said.

That man was charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, false statements to a financial institution, and making false statements to the Small Business Administration.

To report potential fraud, call the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or file a complaint online at Justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

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