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Alva man gets prison for $1.35M Covid-19 relief fraud scheme

Danielfoster437/ Creative Commons

An Alva man will head to prison after he was sentenced in connection with a $1.35 million COVID-19 relief fraud scheme.

U.S. District Judge Sheri Polster Chappell Monday sentenced Evan Graves, 40, to 18 months in federal prison for committing wire fraud.

The court also ordered Graves to forfeit approximately $1,355,600 and five Fort Myers properties he purchased or funded using proceeds of his fraud. Graves entered a guilty plea on December 13, 2023.

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In March 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was enacted to provide immediate financial assistance to individuals, families, and organizations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This Act authorized the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to offer Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) funding to business owners negatively affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to court documents, between June 20 and July 23, 2020, Graves electronically submitted 10 EIDL applications to the SBA on behalf of his various Fort Myers-based companies.

In each EIDL application, Graves falsely represented his companies’ number of employees, gross revenues, and lost rental income due to the COVID-19 disaster to qualify for large loan amounts and advance funding. In total, Graves’s fraudulent representations caused the SBA to approve his 10 loans and deposit approximately $1.35 million into bank accounts controlled by Graves.

Following disbursement of the EIDL funding, Graves unlawfully used the money to pay off personal credit card debt, fund personal investment accounts, satisfy mortgages, and purchase real estate.

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