Sacramento man pleads guilty in COVID-19 relief loan fraud

A Sacramento man pleaded guilty on Monday to submitting false payroll records and other documents to claim more than $1.2 million in federal COVID-19 relief loans intended for small businesses suffering financially during the pandemic, prosecutors said.

Aaron Ashcraft, 42, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of bank fraud for the scheme he carried out from May 2020 to April 2021, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento.

As part of his plea deal, Ashcraft also admitted to embezzling at least $780,000 from his former employer, a street-sweeping company in Sacramento, and he admitted to defrauding the Maine Department of Labor for compensation. more than $58,000 in unemployment, federal prosecutors said. .

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, was signed into law on March 29, 2020 to provide millions of Americans with emergency financial assistance, including forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and other expenses through paycheck protection. Program.

Prosecutors said Ashcraft submitted to approved lenders at least seven fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program loan applications on behalf of purported businesses with employees and monthly payroll charges. He also submitted fabricated documents, including IRS forms, account statements and payroll summaries, requesting more than $1.2 million in loans and obtaining around $920,000, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Ashcraft admitted to embezzling at least $780,000 from his former employer from September 2017 to June 2020, prosecutors said. Ashcraft worked as the company’s chief financial officer and had access to the company’s credit card accounts, which he used to pay for personal expenses, according to the US attorney’s office.

Ashcraft also falsely claimed he lived in Maine and was unable to work there due to COVID-19 in a July 2020 pandemic unemployment aid application, receiving over 58,000 $, he admitted in court as part of his plea deal. Prosecutors said Ashcraft submitted forged IRS forms, claiming he operated a business in 2019 in Maine that received more than $160,000 in revenue and made a net profit of more than $66,000.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office said Ashcraft agreed to pay compensation, including $919,598 to three approved lenders, $45,979 to the Small Business Administration, $779,832 to his former employer and $58,050 to the Labor Department. of Maine.

Ashcraft is scheduled to be sentenced on August 22. Prosecutors said he faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for wire fraud, and faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine for fraud banking.

This story was originally published May 9, 2022 5:43 p.m.

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Rosalio Ahumada writes breaking news stories related to crime and public safety for The Sacramento Bee. He is fluent in Spanish and has worked as a journalist in the Central Valley since 2004.

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