An East Helena man who admitted to lying in a scheme to receive more than $1 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans backed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) for aid to coronavirus relief and using the money instead for personal gain was sentenced on June 7 to 30 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release, according to a press release from the US attorney’s office.
Trevor Gene Lanius-McLeod, 48, pleaded guilty in December 2021 to bank fraud and engaging in monetary transactions in property from specified illegal activities.
Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided. Chief Justice Morris also ordered restitution of $1 million, $125,000 of which will be paid jointly with co-defendant Kasey Wilson who was sentenced in March 2022.
“During a difficult time in our country’s history, Lanius-McLeod stole money from a government program designed to keep businesses afloat and lined their pockets at the expense of truly needy businesses. Today we send a strong message that such fraud will not go unpunished in the District of Montana. I want to thank Assistant U.S. Attorney Colin M. Rubich, IRS Criminal Investigation, the FBI, and all of our law enforcement partners for their work on this case,” U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.
The PPP program, part of the federal CARES (Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act), provided emergency assistance to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses.
“Today’s sentence is a direct reflection of the seriousness of Mr. Lanius-McLeod’s crimes,” said Andy Tsui, special agent in charge of the IRS local office of criminal investigations in Denver. “Not only is Lanius-McLeod guilty of crimes against the federal government, but he also victimized individuals and businesses that the Paycheck Protection Program was meant to protect. These actions will not be tolerated, and the judge’s decision sends a clear message to those who attempt to defraud CARES Act programs that these crimes will not go unpunished.
In court documents, the government alleged that beginning in April 2020, Lanius-McLeod devised a scheme to fraudulently obtain PPP money. Lanius-McLeod applied for four PPP loans through the Valley Bank of Helena. In the applications, Lanius-McLeod made numerous material and false statements to obtain approximately $1,043,000 in fraudulent funds from the four loans. In addition, Lanius-McLeod applied for and received a PPP loan in the amount of $349,000 on behalf of Renovated Montana Properties LLP, an entity controlled by Lanius-McLeod.
Lanius-McLeod made numerous misrepresentations about the PPP loan application. If not for the misrepresentations, Lanius-McLeod would not have qualified for a PPP loan. The defendant falsely stated that Renovated Montana Properties LLP paid payroll taxes and had 25 employees. The company never paid payroll taxes and had no employees outside of Lanius-McLeod.
The government further alleged that, in a promissory note, the defendant agreed to use the funds for business-related expenses. None of the loan money was used for these purposes. Instead, the proceeds were spent on various personal expenses, including the mortgage on Lanius-McLeod’s personal residence.
“Trevor Lanius-McLeod greedily robbed small businesses that depended on PPP funds to survive,” said Salt Lake City FBI Special Agent in Charge Dennis Rice. “His sentence should serve as a reminder that the FBI and our federal partners are working vigilantly to ensure that federal aid funds are used as intended, and that those who defraud these programs will be held accountable.”
Assistant U.S. Attorney Colin M. Rubich prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the IRS-Criminal Investigation and the FBI, with assistance from the U.S. Treasury Inspector General for the US tax administration and secret service.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to mobilize the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to scale up efforts to combating and preventing fraud linked to the pandemic.
The task force strengthens efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies administering relief programs to prevent fraud, among other methods, by increasing and integrating coordination mechanisms existing ones, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their agendas, and sharing and leveraging information and knowledge gained from previous enforcement efforts. For more information about the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about alleged attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline at 866-720-5721 or via NCDF’s online complaint form at: https://www. .justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.