Man Sentenced For Covid-19 Relief Fraud

Written by Brian P. Hamachek on 9/4/2021

A Florida man was sentenced today to 33 months in prison for fraudulently seeking over $7,263,564 in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Andre Clark, 48, of Miramar, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud on May 14, 2021. According to court documents, Clark admitted that he obtained a PPP loan of $488,565 on behalf of his company, Top Choice LLC, based on falsified information and documents that a co-conspirator, James Stote, submitted on his behalf.  Clark also admitted to recruiting friends and associates whom he referred to Stote for the purpose of submitting additional fraudulent PPP loan applications, sometimes in exchange for kickbacks. Clark admitted to seeking $6,774,999 in fraudulent PPP loans through other conspirators that he referred to the scheme. In addition to the prison sentence, Clark was ordered to pay $2,975,086 in restitution.

Additionally, two other co-conspirators were recently sentenced for their role in the scheme.  On July 29, 2021, Tonye Johnson, 29, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was sentenced to 18 months in prison.  According to court documents, Johnson admitted to obtaining a fraudulent PPP loan of $389,627 for his company, Synergy Towing & Transport LLC, based on falsified information and documents.  And on July 13, 2021, Tiara Walker, 38, of Miami Gardens, Florida, was sentenced to 12 months and a day in prison.  According to court documents, Walker admitted to obtaining a fraudulent PPP loan of $258,575 for her company, Utilization Review Pros LLC, based on falsified information and documents.  Both Johnson and Walker falsely inflated the number of employees and monthly payroll for their companies, and they worked with Stote and other co-conspirators to obtain their fraudulent loans.

James Stote was charged by complaint on June 24, 2020, with wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and his case remains pending.  A complaint is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; Acting U.S. Attorney Juan Antonio “Tony” Gonzalez of the Southern District of Florida; Special Agent in Charge Michael J. De Palma of the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Miami Field Office; Special Agent in Charge George L. Piro of the FBI’s Miami Field Office; and Special Agent in Charge Amaleka McCall-Brathwaite of the SBA’s Office of Inspector General (SBA-OIG) Eastern Region made the announcement.

The IRS-CI, FBI, and SBA-OIG investigated the cases.

Trial Attorney Philip Trout of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Turken and David Snider of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida prosecuted the cases.

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