HomeFlorida NewsFlorida man entered a guilty plea to defrauding $1.35 million in COVID-19...

Florida man entered a guilty plea to defrauding $1.35 million in COVID-19 funds

Fort Myers, Florida – Evan Graves, a 40-year-old resident of Lee County, has entered a guilty plea for his involvement in a fraudulent scheme exploiting COVID-19 relief funds, according to a statement from U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg.

Details of the Fraudulent Scheme

In a news release issued on Thursday, U.S. Attorney Roger Handberg of the U.S. Middle District of Florida outlined the case against Graves. The defendant is facing up to 20 years in federal prison, though a sentencing date is yet to be determined.

Graves, residing in Alva, has admitted to his role in a scheme defrauding $1.35 million from the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program of the U.S. Small Business Administration. As part of his guilty plea, he has agreed to forfeit an estimated $1,355,600 and six properties in Fort Myers, acquired or funded through the proceeds of his fraudulent activities.

Between June 20 and July 23, 2020, Graves submitted 10 applications for COVID-19 relief on behalf of his Fort Myers-based companies. In these applications, he falsified information about the number of employees, gross revenues, and rental income losses due to the pandemic. These misrepresentations led the Small Business Administration to approve his loan applications, resulting in the deposit of approximately $1.35 million into bank accounts under his control.

Following the funding, Graves used the money for personal gains, including paying off credit card debts, funding personal investment accounts, satisfying mortgages, and purchasing real estate. This misuse of funds was a clear violation of the terms of the relief program.

Investigation and Broader Efforts Against Pandemic-Related Fraud

The U.S. Secret Service conducted the investigation leading to Graves’ guilty plea. This case is part of a broader effort to combat pandemic-related fraud, following the establishment of the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force by the U.S. attorney general in May 2021. This task force, as explained by Handberg, combines the resources of the U.S. Justice Department with those of other government agencies to intensify efforts against fraud related to the pandemic.

Jessica Robinson
Jessica Robinson
Jessica Robinson, the editor at the Chronicle, has a decade of experience. She's known for her sharp editing and commitment to stories that matter to Floridians, like politics and environmental issues.


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