South Florida Woman Guilty On “Soft” PPP Fraud Charges
As officials start digging deeper into the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans distributed to employers across the US, the arrests for fraud are adding up. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a press release on November 29, 2021, relating the details of a recent case against a South Florida woman. By submitting false information about the number of employees at her company, forged payroll records, fake tax documents, and bogus bank statements, the woman received almost $85,000 for PPP loans under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
The DOJ stated that its fraud section has arrested more than 150 people with fraud since the CARES Act was passed, seizing more than $75 million in misappropriated assets. Fraud against the US government is a serious matter, but there can be some confusion about the types of conduct that could lead to charges. A Florida criminal defense attorney can explain the distinction, which comes down to hard and soft fraud.
Soft Versus Hard Fraud
Even if you do not recognize the terminology, you will probably understand the differences by looking at typical fraud schemes. In the case of the South Florida woman convicted for the PPP scam, the allegations involve soft fraud. She forged documents, created a paper trail, and submitted other information to support her loan application. Had the defendant provided truthful details, she would not have qualified for PPP funds. Other forms of soft fraud include:
- Submitting false information about pre-existing medical conditions when getting health insurance;
- Misrepresenting your income on a loan application;
- Diagnosing a patient with a non-existent medical condition to get Medicaid funds; and
- Falsifying employment records to avoid paying payroll taxes.
Hard fraud is essentially misconduct on the backend of a scheme, often in connection with insurance. In general, a person creates a legal right or invents a loss to get a payout. You will likely recognize some examples, such as:
- Burning down your house to support a claim under your homeowners’ insurance policy;
- Staging a car accident or auto theft; and
- Faking a death to get proceeds from a life insurance policy.
Penalties for Fraud
While the nature of the underlying misconduct may vary, the punishment for a conviction on soft or hard fraud is the same. Federal officials pursued charges against the South Florida woman, so US Sentencing Guidelines apply. She faces up to 20 years in prison for each count, which could potentially be up to 100 years or more. For a Florida fraud case, the penalties relate to the value of the property misappropriated and whether the case is charged as a misdemeanor or felony.
Consult with Our Jupiter, FL Criminal Defense Lawyers About Fraud Charges
A conviction for fraud carries harsh penalties regardless of the specifics of the scheme, and authorities have increased their efforts to apprehend suspects in connection with PPP fraud. Skilled legal representation is critical, so please contact Linkhorst & Hockin, P.A. to schedule a consultation. We can advise you on defense options after reviewing your case.