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Knoxville man sentenced to 18 months for COVID-19 relief fund fraud

James Waylon Howell, 39, was sentenced by Honorable R. Leon Jordan after being charged with fraud.
James Waylon Howell, 39, was sentenced by Honorable R. Leon Jordan after being charged with fraud.
Published: Jan. 18, 2022 at 3:53 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - A Knoxville man was sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to more than $150,000 in fraud related to COVID-19 relief funds.

James Waylon Howell, 39, was sentenced by Honorable R. Leon Jordan after being charged with fraud relating to Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act, and to committing money laundering.

“This prosecution highlights the Department of Justice’s commitment to aggressively prosecute those who have defrauded these important programs enacted to provide economic relief to those who have suffered financially as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said United States Attorney Francis M. Hamilton III. “Fortunately, the quick and capable work of our federal partners permitted the recovery of a substantial amount of stolen funds.”

The CARES Act provided emergency relief financial assistance to the millions of Americans who were in need. Two primary ways a person could receive money were the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (“EIDL”) program.

According to the defendant’s plea, Howell fraudulently submitted applications under the names of two businesses that did not qualify for the funds. He submitted two applications to financial institutions seeking PPP funds and two applications to the Small Business Administration seeking EIDL funds.

The Department of Justice said Howell submitted false supporting records, including Internal Revenue Service documents, and made false statements about the number of individuals the companies employed, the revenue generated, and the wages paid.

“For example, according to the plea agreement, on April 1, 2020, Howell submitted an online application to the Small Business Administration in the name of Advanced Strategy Holdings, LLC, seeking $83,800 in EIDL funds,” the DOJ said. “On the application and in the supporting documents, Howell submitted to the SBA in support of the loan, Howell claimed that Advanced Strategy Holdings employed four individuals, generated $700,000 in gross revenue, incurred $0 in cost of goods sold, and paid wages of $440,000 in the twelve months preceding the COVID-19 pandemic. These claims were all false.”

Anyone with information regarding allegations of 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 the NCDF Web Complaint Form.

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