CONCORD – A Northwood man was sentenced today in federal court for attempting to fraudulently obtain over $6 million in CARES Act funds from the United States government, U.S. Attorney Jane E. Young announces.
Joshua Leavitt, 41, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Paul J. Barbadoro to 28 months in prison and 2 years of supervised release. Leavitt was also ordered to pay $873,475.50 in restitution. On September 27, 2022, Leavitt plead guilty to bank fraud and wire fraud. His co-defendant, Pierre Rogers, was sentenced on February 3, 2023, to 41 months in federal prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud.
“Leavitt’s conduct in this case was egregious,” said U.S. Attorney Jane E. Young. “Leavitt and Rogers attempted to steal a combined $6.2 million dollars, which ultimately denied legitimate businesses nearly a million dollars in emergency pandemic relief funds. I thank our law enforcement partners for their outstanding work in unraveling the largest CARES Act fraud case in the District of New Hampshire to date.”
Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help businesses and individuals adversely affected by the COVID pandemic. The CARES Act created the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which offered low-interest loans to employers. Private lenders could participate in the PPP program. If borrowers used the PPP loans for payroll and other approved expenses as intended, they could apply for loan forgiveness. The CARES Act also expanded the Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. As with PPP loans, EIDL loans were intended for payroll and other business expenses, such as rent and mortgage.
Leavitt applied for 35 PPP and EIDL loans for seven different companies, including Dark Matter Associates, a company that was allegedly dedicated to “COVID-19 Disaster Relief Loan Acquisition and Management.” Other companies Leavitt submitted fraudulent applications for included Demeter Group and the wine company Puro Trader, also known as Yahyn. Leavitt attempted to obtain a total of $6,019,725.50, of which he received $873,475.50.
Leavitt and his co-defendant, Pierre Rogers, inflated the companies’ revenues and number of employees on the applications. Leavitt also generated false supporting documents, including tax filings purportedly filed with the IRS. For example, in a PPP application for Puro Trader, Leavitt submitted a fake tax return claiming the company’s payroll was over $1 million in 2020, but no such return was ever filed with the IRS. Similarly, in a PPP application for a company called Monticello Transnational, Leavitt submitted a fake tax return claiming the company paid employees almost $340,000 in the fourth quarter of 2020. The company’s payroll was only $9,000 during that period.
The U.S. Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and the U.S. Secret Service led the investigation. Valuable assistance was provided by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexander S. Chen prosecuted the case.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit: https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus
Anyone with information about 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 at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.