Jail for the Sayreville man who stole $ 481,000 in PPP money

SAYREVILLE, NJ – A man from Sayreville was sentenced to 30 months in prison on Thursday for fraudulently receiving Payment Protection Program (PPP) funds and depositing a stolen and tampered US Treasury check, according to Acting US Attorney Rachael Honig.

Bernard Lopez, 40, had previously pleaded guilty to one count of bank fraud and theft of public funds. He is originally from Sayreville but now lives in Atlanta, a spokesperson for the US attorney said.

Special agents from the US Department of the Treasury, Homeland Security and the FDIC investigated the case.

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According to federal prosecutors, on June 24, 2020, Lopez submitted a fraudulent PPP loan application on behalf of Company-1, a company Lopez claimed to own. Lopez’s PPP application falsely represented that Company 1 employed 25 employees, had a monthly payroll expense of approximately $ 192,000, and had mortgage / rental and utility expenses.

In fact, Company-1 did not employ any employees, nor did it incur any payroll or utility expenses. It was a made-up company, prosecutors said.

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But the lender approved Lopez’s P3 loan application and handed him $ 481,502 in federal COVID-19 emergency relief funds intended for struggling small businesses.

Lopez then converted some of the proceeds for his own use.

Lopez also stole and tampered with a check for $ 211,886 in PPP money and deposited it into a corporate bank account he set up on behalf of Pezlo Management LLC.

Check has been amended to be made payable to Pezlo. Lopez then removed or transferred the stolen product before the bank could detect the fraud.

In addition to jail time, Judge Sheridan sentenced Lopez to three years on probation and ordered the restitution of $ 137,000 and forfeiture of $ 481,502.

The Small Business Administration oversees the Wage Protection Plan taxes, which were designed to provide forgivable loans to small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Applicants for PPP loans have applied directly to banks or financial institutions.

PPP loans were written off entirely if the recipient spent the loan proceeds on business expenses within a specified time frame after getting the money, such as keeping their employees employed during government-led COVID shutdowns.

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