- April 8, 2021
The owner of three nonexistent health care businesses was sentenced to three years and six months in federal prison after receiving more than $800,000 in COVID-19 relief funds.
Louis Thornton III, a 63-year-old St. Petersburg resident, is serving his sentence at the United States Penitentiary McCreary in Kentucky. He’s expected to be released in March 2025, federal prison records show.
Thornton pled guilty to wire fraud last September, previously facing a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Susan Bucklew also sentenced Thornton to a $814,000 judgment and five years of probation. A request to his attorney for comment on this case was not returned.
The case against Thornton dates back to early in the pandemic, shortly after COVID-19 relief funds became available in April 2020. Thornton, the plea agreement shows, sent in applications for three companies that had no business operations or employees as of January 2020 — Florida Health & Rehab Inc., Harpeth Holdings LLC and Florida Health Management Solutions.
In total, he sent in applications for three Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the SBA for each company, officials contended. The SBA approved and funded a $98,000 loan for Harpeth, $150,000 for FHMS and another $150,000 loan was granted for FHR.
Thornton also submitted PPP loan applications for each business through online portals, but only received funds for two of those applications, including a $20,800 PPP loan for Harpeth and $395,832 for FHR.
Thornton used the funds, totaling $814,632, to invest in stocks, futures and commodities, according to the plea agreement. Thornton applied for, but did not receive, an additional $1.96 million in PPP loans on behalf of FHMS.