Maurice Fayne, aka “Arkansas Mo,” a reality TV personality who appears in VH1’s “Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta,” has been arrested on federal bank fraud charges arising from a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan that he obtained in the name of Flame Trucking.
Fayne, 37, of Dacula, Georgia, was charged with bank fraud and made his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Justin S. Anand on May 13.
“The defendant allegedly stole money meant to assist hard-hit employees and businesses during these difficult times, and instead greedily used the money to bankroll his lavish purchases of jewelry and other personal items,” said Brian Benczkowski, assistant attorney general of the U.S. Justice Department’s Criminal Division.
Benczkowski said the department is “steadfast” in its efforts to prosecute fraud against the Paycheck Protection Program, which is part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
“The defendant allegedly took advantage of the emergency lending provisions of the Paycheck Protection Program that were intended to assist employees and small businesses battered by the coronavirus,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. “BJay” Pak of the Northern District of Georgia. “We will investigate and charge anyone who inappropriately diverts these critical funds for their own personal gain.”
Chris Hacker, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Atlanta field office, concurred.
“At a time when small businesses are struggling for survival, we cannot tolerate anyone driven by personal greed, who misdirects federal emergency assistance earmarked for keeping businesses afloat,” Hacker said. “The FBI and our federal partners remain vigilant during this Coronavirus pandemic to make sure funds provided by programs like PPP are used as intended.”
According to the charges and other information presented in court, Fayne is the sole owner of a Georgia corporation called Flame Trucking. On April 15, Fayne signed and submitted to United Community Bank (UCB) a PPP loan application in the name of Flame Trucking, stating that the business had 107 employees and an average monthly payroll of $1,490,200. In seeking a loan in the amount of $3,725,500, Fayne certified that the loan proceeds would be used to “retain workers and maintain payroll or make mortgage interest payments, lease payments, and utility payments, as specified under the Paycheck Protection Program Rule.”
UCB ultimately funded a PPP loan for $2,045,800. Within days, Fayne allegedly used more than $1.5 million of the PPP loan proceeds to purchase $85,000 in jewelry, including a Rolex Presidential watch, a diamond bracelet and a 5.73-carat diamond ring for himself, and to pay $40,000 for child support. Such payments are not an authorized use of PPP funds under the CARES Act.
On May 6, Fayne was interviewed by federal agents and stated that he submitted a PPP loan application on behalf of Flame Trucking. Fayne claimed that he used all the PPP loan proceeds to pay payroll and other business expenses incurred by Flame Trucking, and denied using any of the PPP loan proceeds to pay his personal debts and expenses.
On May 11, agents executed a search at Fayne’s residence in Dacula and seized approximately $80,000 in cash, including $9,400 that Fayne had in his pockets, along with the jewelry he allegedly purchased with the PPP funds. Agents also discovered a 2019 Rolls-Royce Wraith on the premises, which still had a temporary dealer tag on it. Agents executed seizure warrants for three bank accounts that Fayne owned or controlled and seized approximately $503,000 in alleged PPP funds.
The case is under investigation by the FBI and the Small Business Association Office of Inspector General.