CONCORD – Pierre Rogers, 44, of Irvine, California, was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, United States Attorney Jane E. Young, William A. Kalb, Special Agent in Charge, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, Northeast Field Division, and Timothy R. Benitez, Resident Agent in Charge, U.S. Secret Service, announced today.
According to court documents and statements made in court, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help businesses and individuals adversely affected by the COVID pandemic. The CARES Act created the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which offered low-interest loans to employers. Private lenders could participate in the PPP program. The loans, which were supposed to be used for payroll, were fully guaranteed by the government. If borrowers used the PPP loans for payroll and other approved expenses as intended, they could apply for loan forgiveness. The CARES Act also opened up the Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. As with PPP loans, EIDL loans were to be used for payroll and other business expenses such as rent and mortgage.
Rogers and his co-defendant, Joshua Leavitt, applied for dozens of PPP and EIDL loans for several companies they owned, including Puro Trader (doing business as Yahyn) and Sunju. The applications inflated the companies’ revenues and number of employees, and provided false supporting documents, including tax filings purportedly filed with the IRS. In total, the defendant participated in 22 fraudulent loan applications and modification requests totaling over $4.8 million. Rogers obtained $803,756 in CARES Act funds.
The defendant also misused a significant portion of the CARES Act funds. For example, he spent $107,780 to purchase a 2011 Rolls Royce Ghost and approximately another $56,000 to purchase a Porsche. He also spent CARES Act funds on clothing and jewelry from luxury retailers such as Bottega Veneta, Cartier, and Bulgari; on resort stays; and on high-end meals such as sushi and steak.
“The CARES Act was passed during a particularly vulnerable moment in our history to help everyday Americans who were struggling to put food on the table. The defendant took advantage of the COVID crisis by spending fraudulently obtained taxpayer-backed funds on luxury items, while those who were truly entitled to the funds struggled to keep their businesses open and their employees paid.” said U.S. Attorney Young. “Working together with our law enforcement partners, we will vigilantly work to prosecute those who defraud pandemic relief programs.”
“The U.S. Secret Service is committed to investigating those individuals that took advantage of COVID-19 relief programs to ensure they are held accountable for the fraudulent activity,” stated Timothy Benitez, Resident Agent in Charge of the U.S. Secret Service. “This outcome is a direct result of the coordination between federal partners at TIGTA, USPIS and the U.S. Attorney’s Office.”
Leavitt previously pled guilty and is scheduled to be sentenced on March 6, 2023.
The case was investigated by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and Secret Service, with assistance from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander S. Chen.
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