Day 3 of trial: Bank employee, HR Director testify on Casey Crowther’s PPP loans
A Sanibel Captiva Community Bank employee testified on day three of Casey Crowther’s federal trial that the Target Roofing owner misrepresented his information on a loan application at the bank.
Jurors also heard from the director of Human Resources at Target Roofing.
A big question during the trial is whether Crowther, 35, misused COVID relief PPP loans to buy a $700,000 40-foot catamaran. The federal government is trying to prove that Crowther reported 39 additional employees that didn’t actually exist, to qualify for the loans from the Paycheck Protection Program.
Jurors heard testimony about the made-up employees, including almost 100 paychecks over three weeks that were never cashed.
Prosecutors said it all added up to fake employees who were all fired on the same day.
The HR Director testified that she never saw any of the employees.
Prosecutors made the argument that Crowther made them up in order to make it seem like he spent the PPP money correctly.
Crowther’s defense said it doesn’t matter how the governmental assistance was spent because Crowther planned to pay the government back for the loans.
Earlier in the day, two people in the courtroom were there to support Crowther, but the judge threatened to throw them out if they don’t stop nodding vigorously during testimony.
In addition to listening to the company’s HR director, federal prosecutors went over numerous documents with a bank employee to show the COVID relief money was supposed to be spent for business costs, including payroll, utilities, or rent.
At first, the bank employee testified to the defense that Crowther had not misrepresented his information, but when pushed by prosecutors the employee admitted it “appears to be a misrepresentation to my bank.”
The bank employee also admitted Crowther used the money to buy the boat. He testified he saw the wire transfer from the account containing PPP money for the boat purchase.
The employee said he confronted Crowther and asked what he would do about an audit. Crowther could prove he used the money for payroll but then asked if he should move money around to make it “look better,” according to the bank employee.
Crowther’s defense team argued the money was just a loan because the business owner never asked for loan forgiveness. His defense team said the use of proceeds is limited by the CARES Act when filing for forgiveness.
On Monday, shortly before jury selection began, Crowther pleaded guilty to charges of bank fraud and giving false statements to a lending institution, two of the initial seven counts.
Feds say he misrepresented his liquid assets and provided fraudulent loan applications to a mortgage broker and lender.
Crowther said he “needed to make a down payment” and “did not have sufficient funds” so he “altered bank statements on a computer.”
Crowther admitted the crime in court.
Crowther was indicted on Sept. 23 for COVID relief fraud for using COVID-19 relief funds to buy a boat. The U.S. Attorney’s Office seized the 40-foot catamaran. Now, they are hoping to take possession of his million-dollar property in St. James City and about $2 million they said he acquired as part of the illegal deals he made.
Attorneys hope to bring the trial to closure on Friday, Crowther could testify before then.