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Federal government to investigate PPP loan fraud

FORT MYERS, Fla. – Over the last year and a half, billions of taxpayer dollars were sent to companies struggling during the height of the pandemic.

The U.S. government has good reason to believe it wasn’t all legitimate.

More than 900,000 companies in Florida alone applied for money from The Paycheck Protection Program known as PPP.

A number of businesses like the Broadway Palm Dinner Theater in Fort Myers were able to secure a PPP loan to keep their doors open and keep people employed.

The federal government said not every company secured loans quite so honestly.

Broadway Palm Owner Will Prather said he isn’t sure he would have been able to remain in business if it hadn’t been for the PPP loan.  He called it an important lifeline for his company.

Last May his stages were dark. The future was uncertain and then his PPP loan came through.

“It allowed me to keep a vast majority of my management team employed,” Prather said.

But not everyone spent the money the way he did.

“It’s disheartening to see that happen not only nationwide but high profile cases right here in Southwest Florida,” Prather said.

Casey Crowther owned Target Roofing. He received $2.1 million in PPP money. Crowther used it to buy a $700,000 dollar catamaran and a lavish lifestyle.

He’ll be sentenced next month and faces 40 years in prison.

Attorney Michael Hornung believes in Crowther’s case someone probably reported his abuse of the system.

A special inspector general hired to investigate cases like Crowther’s also discovered David Hines of Miami had received almost $4 million in PPP funds and used a big chunk of it to buy a Lamborghini.

“The government now with a new inspector general that has been appointed, I think right now they’re going to go down and just like tax returns they’re going to audit certain people in certain locations here in the state of Florida,” said Hornung.

Suggesting they will likely find even more fraud in Florida and elsewhere.

But those like Will Prather who spent it properly have already had their loan forgiven and are closer to being back to normal.

“We have a production of grease that we’ll be running all of July and early August,” Prather noted.

If you know somebody or suspect someone may have abused the PPP loan program you’re urged to call the inspector general’s office at 202-927-7899

The post Federal government to investigate PPP loan fraud appeared first on NBC2 News.

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