WASHINGTON, D.C. (WRIC) — Two men from Florida were sentenced on Friday, May 6, for conducting a large-scale scheme to swindle the federal government in COVID-19 relief funds.
According to a release from the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), Phillip J. Augustin, 53, of Coral Springs, and James Stote, 56, of Hollywood, Fla., were convicted of leading a nationwide scheme to defraud the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for millions of dollars in loans guaranteed under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.
Augustin was sentenced to 78 months in prison and Stote was sentenced to 120 months in prison by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. Stote and Augustin also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud on Dec. 14, 2021.
According to documents obtained from the court, Augustin and Stote acquired a fraudulent PPP loan for Augustin’s company, Clear Vision Music Group LLC, using falsified documents. After submitting that application, Stote and Augustin made the illegal move to try to obtain larger PPP loans for themselves and their associates. Stote and Augustin recruited additional PPP loan applicants, and then submitted fraudulent loan applications for them in exchange for a share of the loan proceeds.
According to the DOJ’s release, Augustin used his network of business contacts as a manager for professional football players to recruit loan applicants. The applications they submitted used fake payroll numbers, falsified IRS forms and phony bank statements.
Stote facilitated more than 79 fraudulent loan applications worth at least $35 million in total. Among those loans, Augustin submitted at least 34 fraudulent loan applications worth at least $15 million.
Aside from their prison sentences, both Stote and Augustine were each ordered to serve three years of supervised release and pay millions in restitution and forfeiture.