U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland established a task force in May to look into fraud in COVID-19 relief funding. File Photo by Michael Reynolds/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 30 (UPI) -- A man who fraudulently acquired more than $1.6 million through the U.S. government's coronavirus pandemic Paycheck Protection Program was sentenced to 9 years and 2 months in prison.
Lee Price III, 30, of Houston, was sentenced Monday after pleading guilty in September to wire fraud and money laundering, the Department of Justice announced.
Price amassed over $1.6 million in the scheme, some of which he spent on a Lamborghini, a Ford F-350 and a Rolex watch. He also spent $2,000 at a strip club, $700 at a liquor store, and paid off loans on a residential property.
The DOJ seized $700,000 of the money.
Officials said Price got the funds by falsely submitting the number of employees and payroll expenses in each of his PPP loan applications, as well as fraudulent tax records and other materials.
Price also applied in the name of an individual who died shortly before the application was submitted.
According to the complaint, Price misrepresented information for three different businesses. He said that one of his small businesses, Price Enterprises, had 50 employees and an average monthly payroll of $375,000. In reality, the business had no employees or payroll.
In May, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to fight fraud. Over 150 people have been prosecuted for fraudulently obtaining PPP funding in over 95 criminal cases.
More than $75 million in cash has been seized by the DOJ in fraudulently obtained funds, along with real estate properties and luxury items purchased with the proceeds.