West Virginia man admits COVID-19 loan fraud scheme

July 29, 2022 GMT

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia man has admitted accepting more than $41,000 in paycheck protection loans under a federal COVID-19 assistance program for a business that did not exist.

Malik Breckenridge, 26, of Charleston, pleaded guilty Thursday to wire fraud in federal court.

Breckenridge obtained two paycheck protection loans that were guaranteed by the Small Business Administration under the CARES Act, which provided emergency financial assistance to Americans hit by the economic impact caused by the pandemic.

He admitted that the business was not registered in West Virginia. He also said he falsely stated that the business was established in 2014 and was operating on February 2020 at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to court records.

The SBA forgave the loans in August 2021, court records showed.

Breckenridge faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine at sentencing on Nov. 17. He also agreed to pay restitution.

U.S. Attorney Will Thompson said it was the first pandemic-related fraud conviction in the state’s southern district, “and sadly, it probably won’t be the last.”