Today, an Oregon man from Gresham was given a federal prison term for embezzling more than $77,000 from a fund to help small companies hit by the COVID-19 outbreak. 41-year-old Justin Allen Cunningham was given a 10-month j@il term and three years of supervised release by a federal judge. As part of the sentence, he must also pay $81,207 in restitution.
Court records indicate that in 2021, Cunningham submitted false loan applications for fictitious businesses to get Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent shutdowns, American businesses were eligible for emergency financial assistance under the PPP program, which was first allowed by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act approved by Congress in March 2020.
Cunningham’s plan required him to pay acquaintances to assist him in getting a loan for his side business, selling sneakers online under the name “JC shoe juice.” Cunningham registered for an EIN with the IRS and established a digital business checking account.
He then sent this information to a buddy, who used it to apply for a PPP loan on Cunningham’s behalf by filing fake tax records for the firm. JC Shoe Juice lied on its loan application, claiming it had been in business since 2015, employed six people last year, and made over $460,000 in revenue. Due to Cunningham’s lies, he was approved for a loan of over $77,000.
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A federal grand jury in Portland delivered an indictment charging Cunningham with one count of wire fraud on January 21, 2022. He entered his guilty plea on October 14, 2022.
The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Treasury’s Inspector General for Tax Administration all looked into this matter. Ryan W. Bounds and Meredith D.M. Bateman, Assistant United States Attorneys, were responsible for the prosecution.
Call the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 to report any suspected fraud concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.