A California man has been charged with allegedly filing bank loan applications fraudulently seeking more than $1.7 million dollars in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
William Sadleir, 66, of Beverly Hills, California, was charged in a federal criminal complaint filed in the Central District of California with wire fraud, bank fraud, false statements to a financial institution, and false statements to the SBA.
“This defendant allegedly used Paycheck Protection Program loans to pay off his personal credit card debts and other personal expenses, rather than using the funds for legitimate business needs,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “As the department has made clear, those who defraud the PPP to line their own pockets at the expense of the American people will be brought to justice.”
According to court documents unsealed today in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Sadleir allegedly obtained over $1.7 million in forgivable loans guaranteed by the SBA by falsely representing that the funds would be used to support payroll expenses for three film production and distribution companies, when, in fact, Sadleir intended to use and did use a significant portion of the funds for personal and non-business-related expenses, including personal credit cards and a car loan. Sadleir allegedly used three entities he controlled to obtain over $1.7 million in PPP loans guaranteed by the SBA for COVID-19 relief.
“This film producer allegedly made a series of misrepresentations to a bank and the Small Business Administration to illegally secure taxpayer money that he then used to fund his nearly empty personal bank account,” said U.S. Attorney Nick Hanna of the Central District of California. “The Paycheck Protection Program was implemented to help small businesses stay afloat during the financial crisis, and we will act swiftly against those who abuse the program for their own personal gain.”
The applications submitted to the lenders certified that the funds would be used for payroll expenses and other specific business-related expenses, such as utilities or rent payments. According to the complaint, these certifications were false. As soon as Sadleir obtained the funds, he allegedly transferred over half the money to a personal bank account and began using and attempting to use the funds to pay off personal credit card debts totaling more than $80,000 and a car loan totaling approximately $40,000, among other personal expenses.
“These funds were designed to be a lifeline to businesses struggling to stay afloat during the current crisis,” said Assistant Director in Charge Paul Delacourt of the FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office. “The FBI is committed to maintaining the integrity of the PPP and will hold accountable those who cheat the system at the expense of American taxpayers.”
The CARES Act is a federal law enacted on March 29, 2020, designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. One source of relief provided by the CARES Act was the authorization of up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses, through the PPP. In April 2020, Congress authorized over $300 billion in additional PPP funding.
“SBA OIG applauds due diligence by SBA’s lending partners to maintain the integrity of the lending programs,” said Special Agent in Charge Weston King of the SBA Office of Inspector General (SBA OIG) Western Region. “Providing false statements to gain access to SBA’s programs will be aggressively investigated by our office in partnership with our law enforcement counterparts. I want to thank the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners for their dedication and pursuit of justice.”
The PPP allows qualifying small-businesses and other organizations to receive loans with a maturity of two years and an interest rate of 1 percent. PPP loan proceeds must be used by businesses on payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities. The PPP allows the interest and principal to be forgiven if businesses spend the proceeds on these expenses within eight weeks of receipt and use at least 75 percent of the forgiven amount for payroll.
“Today’s charges hold the defendant responsible for his alleged actions to swindle money out of a federal program intended to help those in need during a pandemic crisis,” said Special Agent in Charge Wade V. Walters of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Office of Inspector General (FDIC OIG). “When an individual cheats the Paycheck Protection Program out of money, it deprives hard-working Americans and deserving small businesses. The FDIC OIG is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to investigate financial crimes in order to preserve the integrity of the nation’s banking sector.”