District of Hawaii | Hilo Man gets 42 months in prison for defrauding Covid-19 relief programs

HONOLULU – Carey Mills, 47, of Hilo, Hawaii, was sentenced on November 22, 2022 in federal court by Chief United States District Judge Derrick K. Watson to 42 months in federal prison for fraud electronic in connection with a scheme to defraud the federal government. of program funds earmarked for relief related to COVID-19. Mills pleaded guilty to a single count information on May 17, 2022. In addition to a term of imprisonment, the Court also imposed a term of five years of supervised release and ordered Mills to pay a restitution to the Small Business Administration in the amount of $937,575.

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a federal loan program designed to help small businesses survive the COVID-19 pandemic by providing them with funds to cover certain payroll costs, including benefits, interest of mortgages, rent and public services. The Economic Damage Disaster Loan (EIDL) is an independent federal program that provides low-interest loans and grants to small businesses experiencing substantial financial disruption due to federally declared disasters, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to court documents and information filed in court, from May to August 2020, Mills submitted multiple applications for PPP and EIDL funds on behalf of three companies under his control, Kanaka Maoli Hookupu Center, New Way Horizon Travel and Uilani Kawailehua Foundation, each. time using interstate cables. To support the claims, Mills submitted fraudulent payroll documents and IRS forms, which included false employee records and wage payments. As a result of these requests, Mills received $937,575 in the form of three forgivable PPP loans and an EIDL grant to which she was not entitled.

At the sentencing hearing, prosecutors highlighted the fact that Mills used federal aid money to finance personal expenses, including the purchase of eight vehicles and two residential properties. As Chief Justice Watson imposed the sentence, he declared, “Stealing a million dollars in federal funds is no joke.”

“Carey Mills stole federal funds that provided a lifeline to our struggling small businesses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said U.S. Attorney Clare E. Connors. “While this is the first conviction of fraud under the COVID-19 program in the District of Hawaii, the Department is committed to investigating and prosecuting those who, like Mills, harmed both the small businesses in need of these PPP and EIDL funds and the taxpayers who supported these programs.”

“The Treasury Inspector General for Internal Revenue is aggressively pursuing those who attempt to abuse the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and its Paycheck Protection Program, which was created by help legitimate business owners during the pandemic,” said J. Russell George. Inspector General of Finance for the Tax Administration. “We appreciate the efforts of our law enforcement partners and the United States Attorney’s office to ensure that those who engage in criminal activity are held accountable.”

The investigation was conducted by the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Internal Revenue Service, along with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s Office of Inspector General, the Office of Small Inspector General Companies and Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant US Attorneys Rebecca M. Perlmutter and Gregg Paris Yates handled the prosecution.

On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to bring together the resources of the Department of Justice in collaboration with agencies across the government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent fraud related to the pandemic. The task force strengthens efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies charged with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques for uncovering fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and leveraging information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.

Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud related to COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Disaster Fraud Center (NCDF) hotline at 866-720-5721 or by NCDF Web Claim Form at: https://www. .justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.

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