- January 18, 2022
A 34-year-old Sarasota man has been sentenced to five years and one month in federal prison after pleading guilty in March to wire fraud and aggravated identity theft that added up to nearly $500,000, in a PPP loan fraud case.
Randy Xavier Jones was sentenced by U.S. District Judge William Jung, who also ordered Jones to return proceeds that could be traced to the offense. This includes 12 prepaid debit cards loaded with unemployment insurance benefits that were fraudulently obtained by Jones, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office.
A Manatee County Sheriff’s Office K-9 handler first made a connection with the fraudulent behavior in September 2020 while working at a Fed-Ex Parcel Interdiction in Bradenton, authorities said. The detective noticed a suspicious package that was addressed to Jones from Jones using the same Sarasota address, as well as another packaged addressed to Jones’ girlfriend at the same address. A state search warrant obtained by the detective found roughly $66,480 hidden amid three pairs of shoes.
The detective learned of two additional packages headed to the same address and obtained warrants for those as well, officials said. The first contained a pair of shoes and two shirts, and the second package two pairs of shoes, 12 state of California COVID-19 pandemic unemployment Visa debit cards issued by Bank of America and one PayPal MasterCard. The 12 debit cards were adorned with various names and account numbers. None of the 13 cards were in Jones’ name.
The debit cards were initially loaded with roughly $262,136 in unemployment insurance benefits. Prior to Jones mailing the cards back to Florida, about $177,787 was withdrawn from the cards in California, officials contended.
The release says that Jones and others committed fraud totaling nearly $500,000. The filed plea agreement states that 38 unemployment insurance claims were filed by other scheme participants, with an IP address linked to Jones' girlfriend's brother. Out of the 38 claims, 20 were paid out by California, Maryland, Nevada, Indiana, Arizona, Tennessee and Florida totaling about $163,745.
The offense took place, according to court documents, over a period of at least three months in 2020 between July and September. Jones proceeded to collect COVID-19 related benefits from several federal and state programs, including a $50,000 loan from the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. The loan was filed on the basis that Jones was operating as a sole proprietorship bakery with 12 employees.
The news release adds that Jones flew to California, using the money from the EIDL loan, to withdraw cash from the prepaid debit cards over a period of several weeks.
The case was investigated by the United States Secret Service, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office and the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Inspector General. It was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Rachel Jones.