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Gresham Man pleads guilty to stealing Covid relief funds | USAO-OR

PORTLAND, Ore.—A Gresham, Oregon man pleaded guilty today to stealing more than $77,000 in funds intended to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Justin Allen Cunningham, 40, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud.

According to court documents, in late summer or early winter 2021, Cunningham learned from friends about the possibility of obtaining Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans backed by US Small. Business Administration (SBA) by submitting fraudulent loan applications in the name of fake business entities. The PPP program, originally authorized by the CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act passed by Congress in March 2020, provided emergency financial assistance to U.S. employers suffering from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. and resulting closures.

To facilitate his scheme, Cunningham paid his friends to help secure him a loan in the name of a one-man business he ran as a hobby: an online sneaker retailer called “JC shoe juice.” Cunningham obtained an Employer Identification Number from the IRS and opened a business bank account online. He provided this information to a friend who created false tax returns for Cunningham’s company and submitted a PPP loan application on his behalf. The loan application falsely claimed that JC Shoe Juice had been in operation since 2015, had six employees, and generated more than $460,000 in gross revenue in 2019. As a result of these misrepresentations, Cunningham obtained a loan worth over $77,000.

On January 21, 2022, a federal grand jury in Portland returned an indictment charging Cunningham with one count of wire fraud.

Cunningham faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 or double his gross earnings or his victims’ gross losses, and a three-year supervised release. He will be sentenced on January 23, 2023 by U.S. District Court Judge Karin J. Immergut.

As part of his plea deal, Cunningham agreed to pay more than $81,000 in restitution to SBA and ReadyCap Lending, LLC, the business lender that provided Cunningham with the PPP loan.

This matter was investigated by the United States Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), the SBA Office of the Inspector General, and the FBI. Assistant United States Attorney Ryan W. Bounds is prosecuting the case.

Anyone with information about alleged attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline at 866-720-5721 or through the complaint form NCDF online at: https://www. justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.