A North Carolina man allegedly took his love of the Game of Thrones books and television program too far.
He's been charged by federal officials of trying to steal $6.1 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans by setting up fake companies, some of which were named after the popular fantasy series, referred to as GoT by its millions of fans.
Tristan Bishop Pan of Garner, North Carolina, has been charged with wire fraud, bank fraud, and engaging in unlawful monetary transactions, according to officials with the Department of Justice's (DoJ) Criminal Division and its Eastern District of North Carolina.
False supporting documents: The 38-year-old allegedly submitted 14 fraudulent PPP loan applications, including some for GoT-named entities White Walker, Khaleesi and The Night's Watch.
The federal indictment alleges that Pan made false statements about the companies' employees and payroll expenses to justify the PPP loans. The fake documents, contend federal officials, included falsified tax filings.
Some loans OK'ed: The allegedly criminal effort, according to the DoJ, was partially successful.
Pan allegedly received more than $1.7 million in benefits following approval of the Pan Insurance Agency and White Walker PPP loan applications.
The good news for law-abiding taxpayers and small businesses legitimately seeking government assistance created as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act is that U.S. officials were able to seize some of the allegedly fraudulent loan benefits paid to Pan.
The official DoJ announcement did not provide a dollar amount for the "some" recovered loan money.
Help creates criminal activities: As with just about everything, crooks are always on the lookout for ways to take advantage. The various coronavirus relief programs, from stimulus payments to the business loan program, are no different.
Since the PPP was created last spring, federal officials have charged several individuals (including this duo) with trying to cheat the business relief effort.
Efforts to find and prosecute such criminal COVID acts cross various federal jurisdictional boundaries. In this GoT case, DoJ investigators were joined by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), with the assistance of the Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Inspector General.
If you have any information about questionable loans or suspected fraud involving COVID-19, Uncle Sam's law enforcement officials ask that you call the DoJ's National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) telephone toll-free hotline at (866) 720-5721.
You also can report your concerns online using the NCDF Web Complaint Form.
As for this latest and prior charges of COVID-19 connected crimes, we'll just have to wait for the cases to work their way through the legal system. I'm sure the prosecutors are hoping for a more satisfying ending than one the HBO GoT fans got in that show's polarizing finale.
You also might find these items of interest:
- The latest COVID-19 risk? Scams to steal relief money
- Don't fall for these 4 common COVID-19 payment scams
- TIGTA joins chorus warning of COVID-19 payment scams
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