A Texas man who spent government funds intended to help small business owners during the COVID-19 pandemic on luxury cars and other items was sentenced Monday to more than nine years in prison, the Justice Department said.
Lee Price III, 30, of Houston, pleaded guilty in September to wire fraud and money laundering charges in connection with fraudulently obtaining $1.6 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.
Federal prosecutors said Price submitted two applications for three entities – 713 Construction LLC, Price Enterprises Holdings LLC, and Price Logistic Services LLC – in seeking $2.6 million in relief funds. He actually obtained $1.6 million.
To bolster his chances, Price lied about the number of his employees and payroll expenses in each application, authorities said. He also allegedly submitted false tax records and other materials.
In his application on behalf of 713 Construction, Price applied in the name of someone who died shortly before the it was submitted.
Authorities said Price spent the money on a Lamborghini Urus, a Ford F-350 truck, a Rolex watch, and on paying off a loan on a residential property. The Justice Department seized more than $700,000 of the funds.
Dozens of people have been convicted of deceiving the government into giving them PPP funds. A California couple remains on the run after they were sentenced in absentia earlier this month in connection to a $20 million coronavirus-relief scheme.
Richard Ayvazyan, 43, was sentenced to 17 years in prison and his wife, Marietta Terabelian, 37, was sentenced to six years.
They allegedly cut off their ankle monitors and fled. Along with Ayvazyan's brother, the trio allegedly applied for 150 pandemic loans using fake and stolen IDs.