A Texas man will spend more than nine years in prison after being convicted of using Covid-19 relief money to fund lavish purchases including a Lamborghini SUV.
Lee Price III, 30, of Houston was sentenced to 110 months behind bars on Monday for defrauding the federal government, falsifying application materials sent to the Paycheck Protection Program – an initiative of the more than $600 billion Congress set aside under the CARES Act to help businesses during the coronavirus.
He initially obtained more than $1.6 million in fraudulent funds, according to officials, and went on a spending spree, blowing the cash on a Lamborghini Urus, a Ford F-350 truck, a Rolex watch, as well as spending money inside nightclubs. More than $700,000 of the money has been recovered by police.
Eventually, authorities under a recently established Covid fraud taskforce picked up on irregularities in his application, which sought more than $2.6 million in relief funds. Price filed for the money under three different businesses – a holding company, a logistics company, and a construction company, none of which appeared to have any employees or paid any Texas taxes, despite claiming to employ at least 50 people.
According to the criminal complaint against Price, he claimed a total unemployment tax liability of just $42 in 2019 for one business, even though if the rest of his claims were true, that liability would be “substantially greater”. In another section of a material, he lists a chief financial officer named Mike Smith, who doesn’t appear to exist, according to officials.
Price has a criminal record that includes a 2010 forgery charge.
Price’s story is hardly unique. Last July, a Florida man pleaded guilty to essentially the same crime, scamming PPP funds to buy himself a new Lamborghini.
Since the passage of the CARES Act, the Department of Justice’s fraud division has prosecuted more than 150 defendants across 95 cases, seizing more than $75 million goods and property.
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