A Texas man has been sentenced to nine years in a federal prison after he fraudulently obtained more than $1.6 million inrelief money from the federal government and spent it at strip clubs and on goods such as a Rolex watch and a Lamborghini, authorities said.
Lee Price III, 30, of Houston wasto 110 months after pleading guilty in September to two counts of wire fraud and three counts of money laundering, the Justice Department said.
Price submitted three applications for Paycheck Protection Program loans using fraudulent tax records and other materials, prosecutors said. PPP loans were intended to help small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Price claimed the three businesses had numerous employees and significant payroll expenses. However, the businesses did not have any employees or pay wages that were consistent with the amounts claimed in his applications. The CEO of one of the businesses had died just a month before the PPP loan applications were submitted. Nevertheless, Price was approved for more than $900,000 for one business and more than $700,000 for another.
Authorities said he used this money to purchase a Lamborghini Urus, a 2020 Ford F-350 pickup truck, a Rolex watch, and on real estate. He also blew thousands of dollars at strip clubs and other Houston nightclubs.
Authorities said they were able to recover $700,000 of the PPP funds given to Price.
Price had faced up to 20 years in prison for each count of wire fraud and 10 years in prison for each count of money laundering.
His attorney, Tom Berg,that Price pleaded guilty without conditions.
“Mr. Price hopes that others will learn from his reckoning that there is no easy money,” Berg said in an email. “He has the balance of the 110-month sentence to reflect, repent and rebuild his misspent life.”
More than 150 people in more than 95 criminal PPP loan fraud cases have been prosecuted since PPP loans were first made available under the CARES Act in March 2020, according to the Department of Justice.
Price is one of at least nine PPP loan fraud cases being prosecuted in Texas. Florida has the highest number of cases with 21, followed by Georgia with 14.
In October, a Massachusetts man who was the first person to be charged with PPP fraud in the country wasin prison. Authorities said David Adler Staveley, 54, faked his own suicide to avoid arrest while accused of trying to steal roughly $544,000 in coronavirus relief funds. His faked death led to a nationwide manhunt, which ended in his arrest roughly two months later in Georgia.
And in May, a Miami man wasafter fraudulently obtaining $4 million in PPP loans. The money was used to buy a 2020 Lamborghini Huracan and jewelry, as well as on dating websites and stays at a local resort. Some money was also documented as going to his mom.