Leader of $20M COVID-19 relief fraud ring sentenced to 15 years
A Houston man who was the head of a multimillion-dollar COVID-19 relief fraud ring and six of his co-conspirators were sentenced for fraudulently obtaining more than $20 million in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans that the Small Business Administration guaranteed under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the United States Department of Justice announced Tuesday.
57-year-old Houston man found guilty to fraudulently seeking $35M in PPP loans
A federal jury convicted a man on Wednesday for his role in a scheme to fraudulently obtain and launder millions of dollars in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
4 more Houston-area suspects charged in $35M COVID-19 relief fraud scheme
Four people from the Houston area have been charged for fraudulently obtaining and laundering millions of dollars in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
KPRC 2 Investigates IRS backlog frustration and how you can get help
KPRC 2 investigates the IRS backlog and how it’s impacting people in our area. Right now, the United States Treasury is still working on some 9 million tax returns from 2020. The delays are causing a domino effect for business owners who need their tax returns to get emergency disaster loans. One Woodlands couple called KPRC 2 Investigates because they worry they will have to close their business if they can’t get help soon.
Texas wedding planner sentenced after misusing more than $1.5M in PPP loan money, feds say
A Texas man was sentenced Thursday to 31 months in prison and three years of supervised release for perpetrating a scheme to fraudulently obtain more than $3.3 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, the U.S. Department of Justice said Thursday.
Senate votes to extend small biz loan program for 2 months
WASHINGTON – The Senate passed a bill 92-7 on Thursday to extend the deadline for business owners to apply for forgivable loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, giving applicants two more months to apply for federal aid. The bill had already passed the House, so it now goes to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law. Congress started the loan program last year to help businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic. Business groups lobbied lawmakers to keep the program going to help ensure businesses that still need help can get it. The Small Business Administration reports that it has approved nearly 7.9 million loans totaling about $704 billion.
Senate confirms Isabel Guzman to lead small biz agency
(AP Photo/Alex Brandon)WASHINGTON – The Senate on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved President Joe Biden's pick to oversee the Small Business Administration, an agency that has seen its portfolio expand in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Guzman is a former Obama administration SBA official who currently heads California’s Office of the Small Business Advocate. In that role, she oversaw efforts to help that state’s small businesses survive the pandemic. The Small Business Administration oversees loan programs to help businesses recover from natural disasters, enhances access to capital through loan guarantees and provides training and technical assistance. Guzman said she would work to ensure money gets into the hands of the small businesses hurt the most by the pandemic and the economic crisis through no fault of their own.
COVID-19 scam alert for small business owners
HOUSTON – The Federal Trade Commission is warning small business owners about the latest COVID-19 scam. With a new round of Payroll Protection Program loans now available, scammers are impersonating Small Business Administration employees, calling owners to trick them into giving up information. The FTC says real lenders will never call you and solicit you for a loan you haven’t even applied for. The feds say these are likely phishing attempts from criminals who could illegally apply for loans using your information. You should also never fill out loan applications online from lenders you don’t know to be legitimate.
More coronavirus relief on the way for small businesses
(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, file)NEW YORK – For Nancy Sinoway, a second coronavirus relief loan would increase the chances that her dressmaking business will survive. The SBA will initially accept only applications submitted by community financial institutions, or CFIs, lenders whose customers are minority-owned and economically disadvantaged businesses. Starting Monday, applications for first-time borrowers submitted by these lenders will be accepted, followed by applications for second loans on Wednesday. As with the first two rounds of the PPP, applications must be submitted online at banks and other SBA-approved lenders. The PPP loan Sheets got in the spring helped tide him over.
Minority-owned companies waited months for loans, data shows
Congress has approved a third, $284 billion round of PPP loans. The recent data from the SBA provided a more in-depth look at businesses that received loans than data released on July 6. The AP and other news organizations successfully sued under the Freedom of Information Act to make data on all PPP loans public, leading to the latest release. The SBA did not address the timing of loans to minority-owned businesses when asked for comment by the AP. MBE Capital, a lender focusing on minority-owned companies, received a commitment in mid-May from NBA Hall of Fame member Magic Johnson for funding for $100 million in PPP loans.
Federal loans helped more than 400,000 Texas companies retain workers during the pandemic, new data shows
The Small Business Administration, which has been in charge of the loan program, disclosed this week that roughly 411,000 loans approved were for Texas businesses. In total, Texas businesses received more than $41 billion in loans, including $13.8 billion to roughly 6,200 recipients who received more than $1 million. The Texas companies supported by the $41 billion in loans reported retaining 4.3 million workers. In Texas, for instance, four companies that received loans worth $10 million reported not having any jobs retained or didn’t say. The SBA also sent more than 27,000 loans worth at least $3.7 billion to businesses in Dallas; sent more than 23,000 loans worth at least $2.7 billion to businesses in Austin; sent more than 20,000 loans worth at least $2.3 billion to businesses in San Antonio; and sent more than 11,000 loans worth at least $1.4 billion to businesses in Fort Worth.
6 Houston-area men charged in scheme that used more than 80 fraudulent loan applications to get $16M in COVID-relief funds, feds say
Prosecutors said all six suspects have been charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud. He also faces charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud and money laundering, according to prosecutors. Prosecutors said all those involved had conspired to submit the fraudulent PPP loan applications by falsifying the number of employees and the average monthly payroll expenses of the applicant businesses. Prosecutors also said they conspired to submit, fraudulent bank records or fake federal tax forms. Prosecutors said several of the PPP loan applications were submitted on behalf of companies the defendants controlled, while other loan applications were submitted on behalf of entities that third-parties allegedly owned.
4 expert tips to prepare for a layoff, find another job ASAP
For almost 40 years Wild West night club in the heart of Houston’s Richmond strip was wildly popular for its country music, dancing and bar. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting closures, the crowds at the Wild West just dried up and vanished, leaving the massive dance floor empty and the club on the verge of financial collapse. If you’re one of them and fear you’re about to lose your job, Texas Workforce Solutions has free one-on-one help for you. Search online job boardsOnline job boards like Work in Texas, Indeed or Career Builder can be treasure troves of job listings. If you’re going to attend a viritual job fair, here are some tips to prepare:Register for the online job fair in advanceTest your equipmentHave your resume readyPractice describing your skills, abilities and experienceUse complete sentencesFollow-up with the requested action3.
Houston man accused of fraudulently getting $1.6M from a COVID-19 relief program was one of many, records show
The money was part of the emergency COVID-19 relief program through the Small Business Administration, a program designed to help struggling small businesses pay their employees and stay afloat during the pandemic. Jerry Tarnopol, an SBA Loan Specialist at Community Bank, said with a program this big, fraud was a possible likelihood. “It saddens me that it happened, but you’ve got to expect it’s going to happen with such a big program. Price now faces federal charges of making false statements to a financial institution, wire fraud, bank fraud, and engaging in prohibited monetary transactions. He’s not the only one Federal Prosecutors have charged with crimes related to the SBA’s PPP program.
Size mattered: Big companies got coronavirus loans first
The PPP made very low-interest loans available to any business -- or any franchisee of a business -- with under 500 employees. It was not designed for very small businesses.Its not clear how many small companies have failed because of the pandemic. The data released by the SBA July 6 does show that by June 30, 85% of the PPP loans had been for less than $150,000. Among other big banks, nearly 18% of the 1,185 loans TD Bank made the first week were over $1 million, as were 13% of Truists 7,143 loans. But it may have been too late for who knows how many small businesses, said Karen Kerrigan, president of the advocacy group Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.
House demands coronavirus loan info from Treasury, banks
WASHINGTON A House subcommittee investigating billions of dollars in coronavirus aid is demanding that the Treasury Department, the Small Business Administration and several large banks turn over detailed information about which businesses applied for and received federal loans. The letters ask the banks and the department for a complete list of applicants for loans, whether they were approved and also details on the guidance Treasury has issued. Democrats say they are not receiving enough information about the loan disbursements and fear the Treasury Department has favored large, well-funded companies over smaller businesses in underserved communities. The agency has only provided general information, such as the total amounts of loans awarded in a given time period. The loans can be forgiven if businesses use the money to keep employees on payroll or rehire workers who have been laid off.
Treasury chief refusing to disclose recipients of virus aid
(Al Drago/Pool via AP)WASHINGTON Building ramparts of secrecy around a $600 billion-plus coronavirus aid program for small businesses, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has moved from delay to denial in refusing outright to disclose the recipients of taxpayer-funded loans. We believe that thats proprietary information, and in many cases, for sole proprietors and small businesses, is confidential information, Mnuchin said during the hearing by the Senate Small Business Committee. Mnuchin promised in his testimony to give the GAO access to the PPP loan data. Mnuchin's pledge to give the GAO's auditors access to the PPP loan data appeared to satisfy some senators, who didnt press him on public release of the information. Praise for the small-business loan program flowed to Mnuchin and Carranza at the hearing from senators from both parties, who cited the positive economic impact across the country.
Treasury chief refusing to disclose recipients of virus aid
(Al Drago/Pool via AP)WASHINGTON Building ramparts of secrecy around a $600 billion-plus coronavirus aid program for small businesses, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has moved from delay to denial in refusing outright to disclose the recipients of taxpayer-funded loans. About 10 weeks after the program was launched, the SBA says it has processed 4.5 million loans worth $511 billion. While the SBA administers the program, Mnuchins Treasury Department has ultimate control over it. We believe that thats proprietary information, and in many cases, for sole proprietors and small businesses, is confidential information, Mnuchin said during the hearing by the Senate Small Business Committee. Praise for the small-business loan program flowed to Mnuchin and Carranza at the hearing from senators from both parties, who cited the positive economic impact across the country.
Texas lawmaker wants local nonprofits in next round of small business loans
U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Jovita Carranza, administrator of the Small Business Administration, calling on the department to designate billions of dollars to local nonprofits in the next round of federal support to small businesses. Known as Community Development Financial Institutions, these groups support small business owners who did not have strong enough relationships with banks in order to land funding in the first pass of forgivable federal loans in the Paycheck Protection Program that legislators intended to keep employees on company payrolls. "It is essential that upcoming legislation automatically authorize certified CDFIs as lenders for PPP and include a set aside of at least $65 billion to be channeled through these CDFIs," Castro wrote. "These institutions play a leading role in serving farmers, as well as veteran, family, women, and minority-owned small businesses in rural, urban and suburban communities. “Latino businesses commonly bank with smaller financial institutions versus larger banks who are prioritizing businesses that already bank with them.”