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Johns Creek man sentenced in Paycheck Protection Program fraud cause

A Johns Creek man has been sentenced “for masterminding a scheme to obtain 14 fraudulent loans totaling approximately $11.1 million from the Paycheck Protection Program,” according to the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia.

In a news release, district court officials said Darrell Thomas, 36, of Johns Creek, was sentenced to 15 years in prison followed by five years of supervised release and repaying $13.2 million in restitution after previously pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit bank fraud and wire fraud and to money laundering. 

“Thomas took advantage of pandemic relief funds intended for struggling small businesses to line his own pockets,” said U.S. Attorney Ryan K Buchanan in the release. “Every dollar he took diverted funds from legitimate business owners suffering the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic who desperately needed assistance to pay their employees. The sentence imposed today shows that fraud does not pay.” 

Thomas reportedly applied for the loans between April and August 2020, obtaining loans between $700,000 and $850,000 for 14 businesses that did not have employees or payroll expenses, after Thomas allegedly fraudulently reported “that each business had between 59 and 69 employees and approximately $295,000 to $342,000 in average monthly payroll expenses.”

Per the release, those funds went toward “various personal expenses” and “in connection with the investigation, the United States seized more than $4 million in PPP loan proceeds, four luxury vehicles and several jewelry items.”

“Thomas orchestrated a massive fraudulent scheme to greedily line his pockets with stolen government funds that were intended to provide relief to small businesses and their employees during the COVID-19 Pandemic,” said Keri Farley, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta, in the release. “Hopefully, Thomas enjoyed his short-lived fun with all the luxury items purchased with stolen taxpayer money, as he will now pay for his crimes with a lengthy prison sentence.”

“The charges and last week’s sentencing show IRS Criminal Investigation’s commitment to defend the integrity of the pandemic relief programs,” IRS-Criminal Investigation Special Agent in Charge James E. Dorsey said in the release. “We will continue to contribute our financial expertise to identify fraud, trace the funds, and bring the criminals to justice.”

In his plea, Thomas also admitted that he had received $1.15 million in fraudulent Economic Injury Disaster Loans and more than $2.4 million in fraudulent automobile loans.

“He also agreed to forfeit various assets, including more than $2.1 million in seized funds, three luxury vehicles – a 2018 Mercedes-Benz S-Class S65AMG, a 2018 Land Rover Range Rover, and a 2017 Acura NSX – and several items of jewelry, including a gold Rolex,” the release said.

The case was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service-Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, and the Small Business Administration-Office of the Inspector General.