Saving ten jobs during the pandemic is what one woman claimed on her application for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan.
Now, She has entered a plea deal for lying about how many employees she had and how she used the money.
Federal prosecutors say after Liliana Gonzalez got a PPP loan for close to $170,000, she had an in-ground pool built, and it was paid for entirely with the money meant to help her business.
Gonzalez’s Cape Coral home is also where her hair salon business is run. Prosecutors say the same month, she applied for a PPP loan. She also filed paperwork to reinstate her business.
“When you’re going through the Small Business Association, they’re being looked at by auditors, probably, with the United States Treasury Department and different authorities helping them pick through the ones that need to be reviewed and prosecuted and the others that are clearly fraud,” said Scot Goldberg, managing partner at Goldberg Noone Abraham.
Attorney, Scot Goldberg, helped break down the plea agreement, where Gonzalez is expected to take responsibility and agree to pay restitution.
“You’re seeing picking and choosing to do audits, or they’re getting information through the affidavits in the paperwork asking for the forgiveness that doesn’t add up. So, that’s when you’re going to see prosecutions like this come out of the woodwork on a loan for $170,000,” said Goldberg.
The public loan information for the PPP loan Gonzalez received indicates she claimed to have ten employees at her home business. Each making more than $81,000.
The loan was supposed to help Gonzalez retain employees during the pandemic, but prosecutors say the information was made up.
“There’s a lot of paperwork and affidavits and things that have to be filed in the forgiveness portion. And that’s opening up people to more liability and, of course, scrutiny in looking at these loans closer to make sure that they’re being used for what was asked for and what the government allows,” said Goldberg.
The PPP loan was then used to build a swimming pool, according to prosecutors. Goldberg says prosecutors are pursuing more significant penalties and more time behind bars as a deterrent.
“They have to do this in order to make sure that if this ever comes up again, people know that there’s teeth to the laws when you break them, and especially when you break them against a financial institution because that’s the federal government,” Goldberg said.
Goldberg said a federal judge still has to sign off on the plea agreement.
If that does happen, Gonzalez will have to forfeit assets to the federal government to cover the loan cost.