Hilo man sentenced to 42 months in prison for defrauding COVID-19 relief programs: Maui Now

Hilo man sentenced to 42 months in prison for defrauding COVID-19 relief programs: Maui Now

A Hilo man has been sentenced in federal court to 42 months in federal prison for wire fraud in a scheme to defraud the federal government of program funds intended for COVID-19 relief.

Carey Mills, 47, pleaded guilty to a single count information on May 17, 2022. In addition to jail time, U.S. District Chief Judge Derrick K. Watson also imposed a sentence five-year probation and ordered Mills to pay restitution to the Small Business Administration in the amount of $937,575.

The Paycheck Protection Program is a federal loan program to help small businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic by providing funds to cover certain payroll costs, including employee benefits, interest on mortgages, rent and utilities. The Economic Disaster Loan is a separate federal program that provides low-interest loans and grants to small businesses experiencing significant financial disruption due to federally declared disasters, including the COVID pandemic. -19.

According to court documents and information presented to the court, from May to August 2020, Mills submitted multiple applications for PPP and EIDL funds on behalf of three companies under his control, Kanaka Maoli Hoʻokupu Center, New Way Horizon Travel and Uilani Kawailehua Foundation, each time using interstate wires.

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To support the claims, court documents indicate that Mills submitted fraudulent payroll documents and IRS forms, which included false employee and salary payment records. As a result of those demands, Mills received $937,575 in the form of three repayable PPP loans and an EIDL grant he was not entitled to, according to court filings.

During the sentencing hearing, the prosecution argued that Mills used the federal relief money to fund personal expenses, including the purchase of eight vehicles and two residential properties. When Chief Justice Watson imposed the sentence, he said, “Stealing a million dollars of federal funds is no joke.”

“Carey Mills stole federal funds that provided a lifeline to our struggling small businesses due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said U.S. attorney Clare E. Connors. “While this is the first conviction for COVID-19 program fraud in the District of Hawaii, the Department is committed to investigating and prosecuting those who, like Mills, have harmed both small companies that need these PPP and EIDL funds as well as to the taxpayers who supported these programs.

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“The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration is aggressively pursuing those who attempt to abuse the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and its Paycheck Protection Program, which was created to assist legitimate business owners during the pandemic,” said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “We appreciate the efforts of our law enforcement partners and the United States Attorney’s Office to ensure those involved in criminal activity are held accountable.”

The investigation was conducted by the United States Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, in conjunction with the Office of the Inspector General of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Office of the Inspector General of the small business administration and homeland security investigations. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rebecca M. Perlmutter and Gregg Paris Yates handled the prosecution.

On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to mobilize Department of Justice resources in partnership with government agencies to scale up enforcement and prevention efforts. pandemic-related fraud. The task force strengthens efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies administering relief programs to prevent fraud, among other methods, by increasing and integrating coordination mechanisms existing ones, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their agendas, and sharing and leveraging information and knowledge gained from previous enforcement efforts.

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