Columbus duo arrested, charged in CARES Act fraud scheme

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Posted: 6/14/2021 / 6:45 PM EDT
Updated: 6/14/2021 / 8:08 PM EDT

Columbus, Ga. (WRBL) – Two Columbus residents are in custody after a federal grand jury indicted them of $ 364,200 wire fraud and theft of government property related to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Curtis Porch, 48, and Dereen Porch, 43, both of Columbus, were taken into custody by federal agents after the grand jury filed a four-tier indictment describing a network of fraudulent companies and fictitious employees.

The indictment said the couple registered three separate transportation companies that had no employees, revenue, or assets.

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Curtis and Doreen Porch face “a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $ 250,000 fine for wire theft and a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $ 250,000 fine for stealing government property,” it said in a press release.

The indictment states that the defendants “filed fraudulent loan applications with the Small Business Administration (SBA) in June and July 2020 to solicit CARES Act funds for letterbox companies struck due to damage related to the COVID-19 pandemic have not suffered any losses ”.

Congress passed the CARES Bill on March 27, 2020 to provide federal aid to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act allocated billions of dollars to the Paycheck Protection Program, which was designed to provide small business loans to keep employees on payroll.

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The CARES Act also provided the Small Business Administration’s funding for disaster credit for economic injury for individuals, households and businesses in federally declared disaster areas.

The online application for funding under the CARES Act required all applicants to confirm under threat of perjury that the information they provided was “true and correct”.

FNP Trucking, LLC was a Domestic Limited Liability Company of which Curtis Porch has been named as a Registrar and Organizer by the Georgia Secretary of State since November 2016.

Curtis Porch was also named as a registered agent and organizer for Buckner Transportation, LLC as of August 4, 2020.

Porch to Porch Transportation, LLC was organized by the Sec. of State Office on August 5, 2020, with Dereen Vera Fitzgerald, also known as Dereen Porch, named as Porch to Porch’s registered agent and organizer.

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All three LLCs were listed under different business addresses. Under Georgian law, LLCs are required to provide a business address in the organization certificate that is “the same as the address of the company’s registered office”.

The indictment alleges that Curtis and Doreen Porch “devised a scheme and ploy to defraud the US Small Business Administration (“ SBA ”) and get money from the SBA through false and fraudulent pretenses and representations regarding loans and / or grant applications to the SBA under the auspices of the CARES Act that resulted in funds being improperly spent by the SBA on the Defendants. “

The Federal Criminal Police Office and the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigation department are investigating.

Deputy US Attorney Melvim Hyde leads the indictment.