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Man pleads guilty to lying to get $1.2 million COVID-19 relief loans

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Mary Rose Corkery, DCNF

A 46-year-old Wisconsin man pleaded guilty on Tuesday fraudulently obtaining more than $1.2 million in COVID-19 relief loans, the Justice Department said in a press release.

Thomas Smith admitted to lying about payroll expenses for eight different companies in order to receive more than $1.2 million of the relief, his guilty plea said, according to the press release.

Smith admitted to receiving a share of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funds from the companies involved in the plot and used the money towards “personal expenses.”

Smith pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud and is scheduled for sentencing June 2, according to the press release.

The PPP was included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which distributed over $2 trillion to aid hospitals, workers and people needing help in the U.S. The CARES Act was effective on March 29, 2020 to help “millions of Americans” affected by the economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the press release.

Congress approved the PPP to assist small business owners in paying rent and paying their workers.

A Florida man pleaded guilty on Feb. 10 for using fraudulently accessed PPP funds to buy a Lamborghini, officials announced in another Justice Department press release.

The Justice Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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