WHEELING, W.Va. (WBOY) — A Bridgeport man is among five people from West Virginia who were indicted on Tuesday for alleged COVID-19 fraud.
Throughout the pandemic, the federal government passed several aid packages and established programs like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which was intended to extend loans to small businesses so that they could retain employees during the lockdowns when they were forced to close.
However, some ended up abusing the programs and obtaining loans and grants—funded by taxpayer money—that they were not entitled to. In an NBC News report from earlier this year, the total fraud in all COVID relief funds was estimated to be as much as $579 billion. Matthew Schneider, a former U.S. attorney from Michigan called it “The biggest fraud in a generation.”
United States Attorney William Ihlenfeld announced charges were filed against the following people who allegedly improperly benefitted from funds through COVID aid programs:
- James A. Nolte, 51, Bridgeport Wire Fraud has been charged with and Money Laundering.
- Dalton Haas, 27 of Wheeling has been charged with Wire Fraud and False Statements to SBA (Small Business Administration).
- Shawn M. Murphy, 47, of Moundsville has been charged with Wire Fraud.
- David Boyd, 27, of Chester has been charged with Wire Fraud and False Statement to Federal Agent.
- Jodi Headley, 49, of Chester has been charged with Mail Fraud.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office (UAO), Nolte is accused of submitting false tax documents, payroll reports, and business records in order to obtain PPP loans totaling $645,717 for PGO Veteran Services, PG Health, RJS Catering, and Dental Care Plus.
Boyd is also accused by the UAO of submitting false information in support of his application for PPP funding, including misrepresenting the gross income of a business known as the Seafood Hut, and then lying to an agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his loans.
The UAO alleges that Haas made false statements about the gross revenues, the cost of goods sold, and the number of employees for the Lebanese Restaurant & Bakery, the Wheeling Wine Festival, the West Virginia Hockey League, and the Wheeling Hockey Association in order to obtain CARES Act funding.
Murphy allegedly applied for and received unemployment compensation through the CARES Act even though he was still gainfully employed as a machine operator at businesses in Marshall County, according to the UAO.
Headley also allegedly applied for and received unemployment benefits even though she was still employed by Hancock County Schools, the UAO said.
Suspected fraud of COVID-19 programs can be reported by phone at 304-234-0100, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.