Numerous celebrities among 19 accused of PPP fraud allegations totaling $ 3 million in Georgia | News
At the height of the COVID-19 crisis, the federal government set up the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, to help small businesses stay afloat financially. But the program, which approved up to $ 659 billion for job retention and other expenses, became a target for shady businesses.
In March 2021, federal prosecutors charged at least 120 people with PPP fraud. Celebrities are among those who have been convicted, among others Love and Hip Hop: Miami star Diamond “Baby Blue” Smith who in December was sentenced to 20 months in prison for a PPP fraud.
In one of the recent cases, Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on January 13 that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the northern district of Georgia recently charged 19 people in Georgia, including celebs, on charges that they had defrauded PPP for more than $ 3 million. Seven separate charges link fraudulent loan applications to an Atlanta-based business consultant who was paid for each loan financed.
An accused, Mark C. Mason Jr., a former fugitive from the University of Maryland, was charged independently, but was also mentioned in the six other trials as an “unpunished accomplice,” the newspaper reported, citing court documents it has received.
According to AJC, several celebs are among those accused in the scheme, including the actress Ion Overman who appeared in Desperate housewives, music producer Carlos “Clos” Stephens who has worked with Master P, and actor Dale Godboldo who appeared in The People v. OJ Simpson.
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Prosecutors allege the defendants collaborated with Mason to file fake versions of former IRS Form 941, the Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return, that reported fake payroll numbers to an approved PPP lender. According to the indictment, the documents submitted were in fact never filed with the IRS.
Mason, who allegedly filed false PPP loan applications to two of his own companies, was accused of having received a “success fee” of between 2-5% for loans granted from the applications he helped other defendants file.