NJ man sentenced to over 2 years in prison for Covid rescue fraud


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A New Jersey man who stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from Covid relief funds – in part by forging a US government check for $ 1,886.87 to read $ 211,886.87 – was sentenced this week to more than two years in prison and ordered to reimburse the money.

Bernard Lopez, a 40-year-old man from Middlesex County, has pleaded guilty after admitting to bank fraud and theft of public funds in July. Judge Peter Sheridan sentenced Lopez to 30 months in prison on Thursday.

According to the Justice Department, Lopez obtained a fraudulent social security number before the pandemic began and used it to open a fake bank account for a non-existent business. Lopez then proceeded to deposit the Covid government funds into the account, from which he transferred and withdrawn the funds for personal use.

Lopez’s arrest was first announced in April, when the DOJ said he “falsely represented” having a business with dozens of employees in order to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding. Covid-19 emergency.

The Justice Department explained that loans for Paycheck Protection Program loan applications go “directly to banks or financial institutions participating in the program; in these applications, applicants make affirmative certifications on their average monthly salary expenditure and number of employees ”.

“Applicants also certify their intention to spend the proceeds of the PPP on authorized business expenses, such as salary costs, rent, utilities and interest on mortgages,” the DOJ continued.

In his request, Lopez said his company had 25 employees – it had none – and a payroll of nearly $ 200,000.

“Based on Lopez’s misrepresentation, lender approved Lopez’s PPP loan application and provided Lopez’s alleged business with $ 481,502 in federal COVID-19 emergency relief funds for struggling small businesses ”The DOJ wrote.

In addition to his prison term, Lopez was ordered to pay restitution of $ 137,000 and forfeiture of $ 481,502.

Lopez’s attorney, Nicole Westmoreland, did not respond to an NBC News request for comment.

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