Man Sentenced for $1.1M COVID-19 Fraud Scheme
Published 11:18 am Thursday, May 4, 2023
A Louisiana man was sentenced today to 10 years in prison for money laundering in connection with a fraudulent scheme to obtain more than $1.1 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) Program loans.
“The significant sentence handed down today demonstrates that those who steal from COVID-19 relief programs for personal gain will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” said Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “We remain committed to rooting out bad actors who took advantage of federal programs meant to help those small businesses truly in need.”
“This defendant stole over $1 million through fraudulent means and used those funds to support his own personal lifestyle, taking from those whose legitimate businesses were suffering from losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said U.S. Attorney Brandon B. Brown for the Western District of Louisiana. “Federal programs such as these are set up to help those in need, not to benefit fraudsters. It is a priority for our office to prosecute those who obtain these benefits illegally. We look forward to continued collaboration with the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section in aggressively investigating similar crimes related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
According to court documents, Michael Ansezell Tolliver, 57, of Monroe, submitted nine fraudulent PPP and EIDL Program loan applications on behalf of several purported companies that Tolliver owned, including Tolliver Oil & Gas Corporation of Louisiana Inc. and Tolliver Petroleum Corporation of Louisiana. Tolliver falsified information in the loan applications and supporting documents, including falsely claiming that some of his businesses had over 100 employees. He also submitted falsified federal tax returns.
“Mr. Tolliver chose greed over compassion by fraudulently obtaining funds from the PPP and EIDL programs established to assist employers severely impacted by the pandemic,” said Special Agent in Charge James E. Dorsey of the IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) Atlanta Field Office. “Tolliver’s sentence today should stand as a warning to those who fraudulently received or may have attempted to fraudulently receive funds intended to help businesses during the COVID epidemic.”
“This result reveals the excellence achieved through the combined efforts of the Small Business Administration (SBA) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to uncover and forcefully respond to PPP and EIDL fraud,” said Special Counsel Peggy Delinois Hamilton of the SBA. “SBA is strongly committed to identifying and aggressively pursuing instances of fraud perpetrated by those who took advantage of small business emergency relief programs. We applaud the work that our law enforcement partners have done to ensure fraudsters are held accountable.”
In total, Tolliver sought more than $7.6 million in PPP and EIDL Program loans and obtained more than $1.1 million. Tolliver then laundered and misused the loan proceeds, including by transferring the funds to personal bank accounts and purchasing luxury goods. Authorities seized approximately $128,500 from bank accounts, as well as a 2020 Cadillac CT5 sedan, a 2021 GMC Sierra 1500 truck, two Tissot watches, two Tag Heuer watches, and three Honda all-terrain vehicles.
The IRS-CI and SBA investigated the case.
Assistant Chief Justin M. Woodard of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Seth D. Reeg for the Western District of Louisiana prosecuted the case.
The Fraud Section leads the Criminal Division’s prosecution of fraud schemes that exploit the PPP. Since the inception of the CARES Act, the Fraud Section has prosecuted over 200 defendants in more than 130 criminal cases and has seized over $78 million in cash proceeds derived from fraudulently obtained PPP funds, as well as numerous real estate properties and luxury items purchased with such proceeds. More information can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/ppp-fraud.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the department’s response to the pandemic, please visit www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866‑720‑5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.