Wilson business owner sentenced in national COVID-19 fraud scheme
RALEIGH, N.C. (WITN) - A Wilson business owner has been sentenced to federal prison for his participation in what federal agents have called a nationwide scheme to commit Payroll Protection Act (PPP) fraud during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Isaac Dawson, 45, was sentenced to 36 months in prison for fraudulently obtaining PPP loans on behalf of two separate businesses he owned.
Court records show that Dawson is the seventh business owner to be sentenced for his role in the scheme, and his role is the longest handed down so far. The previous six to be sentenced were given 12 or 15-month sentences. There are nine people who have also pled guilty awaiting sentencing.
“Stealing taxpayer money intended to help struggling businesses during a pandemic is shameless,” said U.S. Attorney Michael Easley. “We will continue to hold accountable those who criminally took advantage of our country in its time of need.”
According to Easley’s office, Dawson conspired with Edward Whitaker, Schunda Coleman, and others to obtain fraudulent PPP loans on behalf of their businesses. Dawson’s businesses included a construction company and a holding company.
Whitaker and Coleman pled guilty on January 19, 2023, for their role in operating the scheme from their home in Texas.
According to court documents, Whitaker and Coleman created fraudulent supporting documents and applications for each PPP loan in exchange for 25% of the total loan proceeds.
Records show that Whitaker gave each defendant, via text messages that were obtained by police, detailed instructions as to how to make it appear that the PPP loans were being paid out to employees. In reality, most or all of the money was transferred back to the defendants.
Documents show that the fraudulent payroll records were then submitted to the Small Business Administration (SBA) to obtain 100% loan forgiveness.
“The Paycheck Protection Program was designed to help small businesses facing financial difficulties during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Donald “Trey” Eakins, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge in the Charlotte Field Office. “Through our partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our federal law enforcement partners, IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agents will continue to aggressively pursue individuals who try to exploit federal relief programs for their personal gain.”
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