Former Miami-Dade County Employee Gets Six Months In Prison For Making False Statements In Order To Receive COVID-19 Relief Loan
The COVID-19 pandemic has been extraordinarily disruptive to the daily routines and income of millions of working people and small business owners. If you are still employed now at the same job where you were working before the pandemic, and if your income has not decreased during this time, you are one of the lucky ones. Some of the aforementioned lucky ones benefited financially during the pandemic, even as most of the country struggled. Some simply found themselves with a budget surplus if they were working from home and not spending money on their commute and on the irresistible treats offered by restaurants within walking distance of their workplace, and they used the money to pay down debts or build up an emergency fund. Other employees who worked from home during the pandemic devoted the time that they used to spend commuting to establishing a side hustle or two. One South Florida man decided to capitalize on the assistance available to struggling small business owners affected by the pandemic, even as he held onto his stable job as an employee of Miami-Dade County. Here, our Miami white collar crimes lawyer explains how a public sector employee misrepresented his side hustle in order to receive COVID-19 relief funds, and how it all went wrong.
The Charges: Wire Fraud
Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) are one of the programs available to small business owners who suffered a precipitous drop in income due to business interruption related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Small Business Association (SBA) would issue these loans to small businesses who could prove that their recent reduction in income was due to the pandemic and that they would use the loan money for payroll, rent, utilities, and other necessities related to business overhead costs.
As a young man, Willie Curry served in the United States Army, receiving an honorable discharge after seven years of service. After that, he embarked on a successful career as an employee of Miami-Dade County. His computer skills distinguished him, and in 2019, he was promoted to the role of Network Manager, a role he continued to hold as the county switched to remote work for many employees as a result of the pandemic. While his day job kept him plenty busy, Curry started a side business during the pandemic. (So did lots of people with full-time jobs. It is the obvious thing to do when the only other available forms of recreation are grocery shopping and bingeing Netflix.) All of this is perfectly legal.
The trouble is that Curry applied for an EIDL loan for his side business, Will Curry Computers, and he got creative with the truth on the loan application. He claimed that he had established the company in 2015, and that in the twelve-month period leading up to the pandemic, it paid ten employees, spent $170,664 on goods sold, and took in $755,416. In fact, the company was established in 2020, it had no employees, and its costs and revenues were negligible.
In a by-now familiar sequence of events, the SBA hastily approved Curry’s loan without putting much effort into verifying the information on the application. First the SBA paid Curry a $10,000 cash advance and then deposited the total loan amount of $150,000 into the bank account listed on the application. For reasons not detailed in the Department of Justice press release, the bank returned the funds to the SBA. Upon finding out that the original bank had returned the money, Curry made numerous attempts to get the SBA to deposit the funds at a different bank, and during this process, investigators uncovered his falsehoods.
The Sentence: Six Months in Prison, Followed by Home Confinement and Supervised Release
Because of the false statements he made on the EIDL application, Curry, 58, received criminal charges for wire fraud. He pleaded guilty to the charge, and on November 17, 2021, he received a sentence of six months in federal prison, followed by one year of supervised release. For the first six months of his supervised release, he must stay on home confinement. The reasons he did not get a heavier sentence are several. First, defendants who plead guilty tend to get lighter sentences than those convicted at trial. Second, Curry does not have a prior criminal history and has a history of honorable service in the Army.
Contact Our Financial Crimes Defense Attorneys
A criminal defense lawyer if you are facing criminal charges for making false statements related to COVID-19 relief funding. Contact Ratzan & Faccidomo in Miami for a free, confidential consultation about your case.