A 30-year-old Texas man has been sentenced to 9 years and 2 months in prison for fraudulently acquiring more than $1.6 million in funds through the government’s coronavirus pandemic Paycheck Protection Program [PPP], the Department of Justice said Monday. The government said Lee Price III had pleaded guilty in September to wire fraud and money laundering.
PPP loans were offered until May as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help small businesses financially manage the economic toll of the pandemic. Price, according to authorities, fraudulently submitted loan applications to two different lenders in an attempt to get more than $2.6 million.
He was able to acquire more than $1.6 million by misrepresenting the number of employees and the payroll expenses for three different businesses. On one of the applications, according to the criminal complaint, Price said that one of the small businesses, Price Enterprises, had 50 employees and an average monthly payroll of $375,000. Authorities said the business has no employees and no payroll, and that there is no indication the entity has ever hired anyone.
Once he received the funds, authorities said, he used the money to purchase a Lamborghini Urus, a Ford F-350 and a Rolex watch. He also spent $2,000 at a strip club, more than $700 at a liquor store, more than $2,500 at night clubs, and used part of the funds to pay off a loan on a residential property. The Justice Department said it was able to retrieve over $700,000 of the funds he had fraudulently claimed.
According to the criminal complaint, Price received a felony convictions in 2010 for forgery and in 2011 for robbery. He is also the defendant in an active criminal case in Texas, where he’s accused of tampering with a government record, the complaint states.
More than 160 defendants in more than 95 separate criminal cases have been prosecuted over fraudulently obtained PPP funds since the CARES act was enacted, authorities said, adding that they have seized more than $75 million in cash.