By Victor Omondi
A Texas man pled guilty in federal court in Houston to defrauding the Small Business Administration (SBA) of more than $1.6 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the SBA under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Lee Price III, 30, sub-mitted many bogus PPP loan applications on behalf of two different entities: 713 Construction LLC and Price Enterprises Holdings LLC, to two different lenders. The PPP loan application for 713 Construction LLC was made in the name of someone who died shortly before it was submitted. Price had requested and received almost $1.6 million through the two PPP loan applications.
Price lied about the number of people who worked for the companies and the payroll expenses in each of the PPP loan applications in the papers he provided to the government. He also submitted bogus tax papers and other materials along with the fraudulent PPP applications. Price spent the money on a Lamborghini Urus, a Ford F-350 truck, and a Rolex watch after receiving the funds, and he also used some of it to pay off some of his debts, including a residential property loan.
He was charged with providing false statements to a financial institution, wire fraud, bank fraud, and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions earlier this year.
The Department of Justice and its law enforcement partners seized over $700,000 in total.
Price pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud and three counts of money laundering and will be sentenced on November 29. He could face a maximum sentence of 20 years in jail for each count of wire fraud and ten years in prison for each count of money laundering, totaling up to 70 years in prison.
After considering the US Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory criteria, a federal district court judge will impose any sentence.
The investigation was carried out by the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), the Small Business Administration’s Office of Inspector General (SBA-OIG), and the United States Postal Inspection Service’s Houston Division. Trial Attorneys Timothy A. Duree, Senior Attorney Advisor James Alexander and Matthew Grisier are prosecuting the case with the assistance of Assistant U.S. Attorney James McAlister.