A Hanford occupational health contractor agreed to pay almost $3 million in restitution and penalties for false financial statements that enabled it to obtain a COVID-related loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration, which was later forgiven.
The loan ended up in the personal bank accounts of the owners of HPMCorp., Holly and Grover Cleveland Mooers.
HPM Corp. must pay $2,689,400 in penalties and restitution, while the Mooers must pay a $250,000 fine from their personal money for a total of $2,939,400, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Eastern Washington announced on Friday March 25.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s office, HPM Corp. successfully applied in April 2020 for a $1,344,700 Paycheck Protection Program loan. The program was intended to provide funds to small businesses in order to deal with the economic downturns of the COVID pandemic. Such a loan can be forgiven if the money goes to payroll and other eligible expenses.
A U.S. Attorney Office press release said HPMC and the Mooers admitted that they knowingly provided false statements to the SBA in support of HPM Corp.’s application for forgiveness of the PPP loan by falsely stating that the money had been used for payroll and other eligible expenses when they had not been. HPM Corp. and the Mooers also admitted they made false statements that led to the SBA to forgive the loan.
The Mooers transferred the entire loan from an HPMC business account to the Mooers’ personal account.
HPM Corp. also agreed to three years of probation, during which it cannot violate any more civil or criminal laws. If a violation occurs, criminal charges will be filed. Grover Cleveland Mooers cannot serve as a principal employee, manager, or advisor for HPM Corp. during the three-year deferral period. HPM Corp. must also pay for an independent audit of its accounting practices.
In her office’s press release, U.S. Attorney for Eastern Washington Vanessa Waldref said: “COVID relief funding is a precious and limited resource. These funds were intended to help small and local businesses and keep the communities of Eastern Washington safe and strong, not to line the pockets of millionaire owners. I want to especially commend the exceptional investigative work performed by (U.S. Department of Energy’s) Office of Inspector General and SBA’s Office of Inspector General.”
“Stealing money from pandemic relief funds is reprehensible,” said Teri Donaldson, DOE’s Inspector General. “Anyone engaging in COVID fraud should think twice. The federal law enforcement community actively investigates and prosecutes pandemic relief fraud, and will not hesitate to seek significant criminal and civil penalties.”