Ihlenfeld and team continue to investigate coronavirus fraud

WHEELING, W.Va. — Northern West Virginia U.S. Attorney Bill Ihlenfeld and his team are sifting through thousands of relief loans issued by the federal government during the pandemic.

Bill Ihlenfeld

“We are doing everything we can to recoup as much as we can,” Ihlenfeld said. “But will some people get away with it, yes?”

At the height of the pandemic, millions of businesses nationwide applied for billions of dollars in available relief money through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to stay afloat through lockdowns. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EDIL) programs were enacted in March of 2020 as part of the CARES Act to rush economic relief to suffering businesses.

Bridgeport resident James Nolte, 52, was recently sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for fraudulently obtaining nearly $650,000 from the CARES Act’s Paycheck Protection Program.

“When the money was flowing out left and right from the federal government, Mr. Nolte took advantage of the fact that no one was really paying attention,” Ihlenfeld said.

Nolte submitted false tax documents, payroll reports, and business records in order to obtain PPP loans on behalf of PGO Veteran Services, PG Health, RJS Catering, and Dental Care Plus, for total fraud in the amount of $645,717.

“He, for example, listed his deceased father as an employee receiving a six-figure salary from one of the businesses,” Ihlenfeld said. “In another, he listed his 10-year-old stepson as an employee also receiving a six-figure salary.”

Ihlenfeld encouraged anyone aware of COVID fraud to report it via email to wvfraud@fbi.gov, by telephone to 304-234-0100, or via regular mail to the U.S. Attorney, P.O. Box 591, Wheeling, WV 26003.

“Every week we identify new loans that are suspicious; it doesn’t mean they’re criminal; they’re suspicious,” Ihlenfled said. “We run those, and some of those will result in civil actions, and some will result in criminal actions.”

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