RALEIGH, N.C. — A Leland, North Carolina, man has been sentenced to six months in prison and three years of supervised release for conspiracy to commit wire fraud in connection with the using federal funds to start a phony trucking business.
On February 16, 2023, Joseph Alexander Casillas pleaded guilty to the charge. As part of the judgment, Casillas was also ordered to pay $92,734 in criminal restitution to the U.S. Small Business Administration, according to a news release from Michael Easley, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina.
Casillas was sentenced on Wednesday, May 10.
According to legal documents and other information presented in court, Casillas fraudulently applied for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans in March and April 2021 in furtherance of a conspiracy to defraud the government.
The PPP program was created by the CARES Act in March 2020 to provide emergency financial assistance to American small businesses that were suffering the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through the PPP program, businesses could apply for forgivable loans to retain jobs and pay certain qualifying expenses. In order to obtain a PPP loan, the business was required to make certain disclosures and certifications regarding its operations and acknowledge program rules.
The business was also required to provide documentation to support its alleged payroll expenses.
As part of the scheme, Casillas submitted two false and fraudulent PPP loan applications, each of which requested over $20,000, according to the news release.
In the applications, Casillas falsely stated that he was the sole proprietor of a longstanding trucking business that was incurring nearly $100,000 in annual payroll costs. Among other things, to substantiate his claims, Casillas provided the lender with a fraudulent 2019 tax record.
In reality the company did not exist.
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