(WWJ) A Detroit man has pleaded guilty to a bank fraud scheme involving over half a-million dollars in COVID-19 relief money.
According the the U.S. Attorney's Office and the FBI, 56-year-old Darrell Baker got a $590,000 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan from a Pennsylvania bank for a business he owns, called "Motorcity Solar Energy Inc."
The FBI says it turns out that business has no employees, no payroll expenses of any kind, and was not even in operation.
Baker was able to withdraw some of the money to buy four cashier's checks, and used those to buy two Cadillac Escalades, a Dodge Charger, and a Hummer, according to investigators.
U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider said Baker blatantly lied about his businesses as part of a scheme to intentionally defraud Customers Bank and the PPP, which was intended to support small businesses struggling during the pandemic.
“My office and our law enforcement partners have no tolerance for frauds affecting programs designed to help our economy survive the COVID-19 pandemic," Schneider said in a statement. "We will prosecute such cases aggressively, and today’s guilty plea is an example of our commitment to holding accountable anyone fraudulently obtaining pandemic relief funds to line their own pockets.”
As part of the plea agreement, Baker has been ordered to pay back $172,000 — the amount he was able to get his hands on before the rest was frozen by the bank.
“Mr. Baker's scheme exploited a fund designed specifically to support Americans during this financially challenging time,” said Steven M. D’Antuono, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI in Michigan. “Thanks to the hard work of the FBI and all of theagencies involved in this investigation, monies set aside for hard working Americans who are not able to work during this pandemic is secure and available for the people that need it most, not for the fraudsters like Mr. Baker."
Sentencing is scheduled for January in U.S. District Court.