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Fort Myers man pleads guilty to $1.3M COVID-19 loan fraud

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  • | 6:30 p.m. December 14, 2023
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Evan Graves, 40, of Lee County, pleaded guilty to wire fraud in connection with a $1.35 million COVID-19 relief fraud scheme, U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg says in a Thursday news release.

Graves faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison, Handberg, of the U.S. Middle District of Florida, says. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

As part of his guilty plea, Graves, of Alva, agreed to forfeit approximately $1,355,600 and six properties in Fort Myers that he purchased or funded using proceeds of the fraud, Handberg says.

According to the plea agreement and other court documents, between June 20 and July 23, 2020, Graves electronically submitted 10 applications related to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program of the U.S. Small Business Administration, on behalf of his various Fort Myers-based companies.

The U.S. attorney's office says that in each application, Graves misrepresented his companies' number of employees, gross revenues and lost rental income due to COVID-19, as to qualify for large loan amounts and advance funding.

The representations caused the Small Business Administration to approve his 10 loans and deposit approximately $1.35 million into bank accounts controlled by Graves, Handberg says.

Following the funding, Graves unlawfully used the money to, among other things, pay off personal credit card debt, fund personal investment accounts, satisfy mortgages and purchase real estate, the U.S. attorney says.

The U.S. Secret Service investigated the case.

The enforcement action follows the May 2021 establishment by the U.S. attorney general of the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force. It uses the resources of the U.S. Justice Department in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud, according to Handberg.


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