Whew! What a price to pay for cashing in on a speedy comeback. A California man is facing substantial prison time for allegedly defrauding COVID-19 assistance programs out of over $9 million. Andrew Marnell of Los Angeles recently pleaded guilty to two federal crimes related to the fraud, according to the Department of Justice. Attorney General Merrick Garland noted in a memo on the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force in May 2021, “The Department of Justice will use every available federal tool—including criminal, civil, and administrative actions—to combat and deter COVID-19 related fraud.” Andrew’s PPP-funded fortune has run its course, unlike the viral memes.
According to court documents, the 41-year-old told police he fraudulently collected coins from seven Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans. To qualify, Andrew submitted applications featuring “false and misleading statements” about the business operations and payroll expenses of several companies.Andrew flew under the radar of suspicion by using aliases and fake and altered documents. The paperwork trial includes “bogus federal tax filings and employee payroll records.”After he secured the loans, he reportedly transferred millions to his brokerage account “to make risky stock market bets.”
Andrew allegedly squandered tens of thousands of dollars at “gambling venues.” According to Newsweek, the PPP will be established by the Small Business Administration in March 2020 as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES). Their mission was to help businesses with less than 500 employees, organizations, and sole proprietors with financial challenges exacerbated by the pandemic. The CARES Act also provided funding through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, in addition to the PPP loans (EIDL). Andrew didn’t miss out on the chance to cash out again.
He also reportedly obtained $170,000 in EIDL loans.Still, Andrew’s scheme led to a plea agreement. He declared himself guilty to one count of bank fraud and one count of “engaging in a monetary transaction involving criminal proceeds.” The first charge is a heavy hitter, meaning it comes with “a 30-year statutory maximum penalty.” Meanwhile, the second charge “carries a 10-year statutory maximum penalty.” Andrew’s sentencing is scheduled for February 14, 2022.Per his plea deal, Andrew has agreed to forfeit all the goodies he collected using PPP money.
This list includes “$1.54 million seized from several brokerage accounts, $319,298 in cash recovered from his residence, numerous electronic devices, a Rolex Oyster watch, a Range Rover and a Ducati motorcycle.”“We look forward to working with our federal government colleagues to bring to justice those who seek to profit unlawfully from the pandemic,” Attorney General Garland wrote.