Pastor spent COVID-19 relief loan on Mercedes-Benz S-Class: prosecutor

A Georgian pastor is the latest in a line of individuals to admit to COVID-related funding fraud.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia announced on Friday that Mack Devon Knight, 45, of Kingsland, Georgia, pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud after receiving $149,900 in fraudulent government funding from the Small Business Administration (SBA).

A Georgian pastor recently pleaded guilty to COVID-related fraud, which included purchasing an expensive vehicle that ultimately had to be returned. The pastor faces a prison term of up to 20 years.
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Knight faces a prison sentence of up to 20 years, in addition to substantial financial penalties and restitution. Any prison sentence served could result in up to three years of probation. There is no parole in the federal system.

The CARES Act was signed into law by former President Donald Trump on March 27, 2020.

“Congress provided emergency taxpayer funding through the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Security) Act to help small businesses in financial difficulty during the pandemic,” said the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. , David Estes, in a press release. “I have made fraud in connection with these funds a priority, and the prosecution of Mack Knight should once again make it clear that this office and our law enforcement partners will not tolerate those who attempt to pull personally profit from this program by inventing companies and submitting false documents.”

Court documents and testimony from February and March 2021 revealed that Knight, who the government says posed as a pastor, undertaker, restaurateur and tax preparer, allegedly applied for loans in the event Disaster Relief (EIDL) to the SBA on behalf of several Camden County, Georgia, businesses.

The EIDL apps revealed that Knight lied about several companies he said “had up to hundreds of thousands of dollars in gross revenue prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.” Knight’s guilty plea was an admission not only that the EIDL applications were fraudulent, but that the documents he sent to the SBA – including a forged tax document and an altered bank record – had also been fabricated.

Much of the money Knight received from the SBA was allegedly used to buy a Mercedes-Benz S-Class sedan – which, due to his plea deal, will be confiscated in the United States.

In December, Roy Dotson, the Secret Service’s National Pandemic Fraud Coordinator, said about $100 billion of about $3.4 trillion in COVID-19 relief funds had been stolen. . Data from the Department of Labor, Small Business Administration and Secret Service Affairs showed that about 3% of stolen funds were tied to fraudulent unemployment claims.

The number of individuals involved in illegal COVID relief programs continues every weekaccording to SBA reports.

One from January of this year involved a former Baltimore prosecutor who was indicted by a federal grand jury for perjury and false mortgage applications related to two vacation homes in Florida.

Last year, a Texas man was sentenced to 110 months in prison after laundering more than $1.6 million in COVID-19 relief funds, including the purchase of a Ford F-150 truck, a Rolex watch and a Lamborghini Urus.

A new COVID-19 fraud Strike Force was announced on March 17 by Vanessa R. Waldref, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, to combat fraud resulting from the pandemic. The announcement included the first criminal charges filed in connection with the Strike Force.

Waldref and the U.S. Attorney’s Office began working with federal law enforcement agencies, including the SBA, Office of Inspector General, FBI Secret Service, and Internal Revenue Service, etc., in February of this year.

“COVID-19 relief programs, which were essential to restarting our economy and supporting our families, quickly ran out of money due to the number of people and businesses applying for funding,” Waldref said. “It’s not fair that some deserving small businesses couldn’t secure funding to maintain operations during the COVID-19 pandemic while others abused programs. Strike Force is a way to ensure that limited resources are provided to deserving local businesses that provide vital services to our communities.”


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