Jury finds Target Roofing owner Casey Crowther guilty of fraud with COVID relief funds
A jury found Casey Crowther guilty on all counts of misusing COVID relief funds in federal court on Friday.
The jury deliberated for about one hour before finding the Target Roofing company owner guilty of four counts of misusing Payment Protection Program money meant to pay employees.
Instead, Crowther used the money for lavish personal expenses, including a 40-foot $700,000 catamaran boat.
Crowther was emotional in the courtroom when the judge read the verdict.
Crowther declined to comment to WINK News and said “have some respect.” His attorneys also refused to answer questions.
Crowther faces up to 30 years for each offense, a maximum of 140 years in prison. The sentence could also include a $1 million fine. His next court date is scheduled for June 29.
Prior to the start of the 5-day trial that began on Monday, 35-year-old Crowther pleaded guilty to charges of bank fraud and giving false statements to a lending institution, two of the initial seven counts. Crowther admitted to it in court.
One charge, accusing Crowther of wire fraud by allowing $640,381.21 to be transferred from his mortgage lender to an escrow account to buy a home, was dismissed on Tuesday.
Crowther is accused of saying he had 39 more employees than actually existed, and made up fake employee information, in order to qualify for COVID-19 relief in the form of the Payment Protection Program (PPP).
Federal authorities say he used the funds received to purchase a $700,000 catamaran and for personal transactions.
Testimony began with a Sanibel Captiva Community Bank employee who, when pushed by prosecutors, said Crowther misrepresented information on loan documents.
Since then, jurors heard from Target Roofing’s HR Director who testified she never saw the 39 employees hired for a shredding job. They also heard from a Social Security Administration employee who testified none of the Social Security numbers used matched real people.
The defense said Target Roofing hires employees from the Hispanic community, which includes many undocumented immigrants who they don’t want to discriminate against by looking too closely at documents.
“You can’t trust Crowther’s bank records as far as you can throw them,” a prosecutor said during closing statements on Friday.
Crowther’s defense team argued the money could be spent however he wanted 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, not when spending it.
His team also tried to destroy the credibility of the government’s witnesses and told jurors there was a lot they didn’t know saying, “just part of the story was presented to you.”
Crowther was indicted on Sept. 23 and 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.
The judge ordered a pre-sentencing report to be prepared and a separate notice will be sent for sentencing, 75-90 days later.