Helena Man Imprisoned for Defrauding COVID-19 Relief Fund
48 year-old Trevor Gene Lanius-McLeod of East Helena was sentenced in Great Falls Federal District Court this week to nearly three years in prison and must pay over $1 million in restitution for defrauding the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program.
KGVO News reached out to Amanda Prestegard, Special Agent in Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation with the Denver Field Office.
“He personally took four Paycheck Protection Program loans through Valley Bank of Helena,” began Prestegard. “In the applications he made false and material misstatements to obtain $1,043,000 in fraudulent funds from those four loans. In addition to that, he used a business called Renovated Montana Properties, which was an entity that he controlled, to apply for another loan which was almost $350,000.”
Prestegard said Lanius-McLeod deliberately falsified the information he used in the applications.
“So in all of those loans, the applications had false statements in them,” she said. “It was predicated on the fact that he stated that he paid payroll taxes, had 25 employees and he paid an average monthly payroll expense of $139,000. And all of that was false. So basically, he just filed a bunch of false applications, got money that he said was for his businesses and then use it for his personal benefit.”
Prestegard said Lanius-McLeod also had a partner in the crimes.
“In this instance he received three years in prison and his co conspirator Casey Jones- Wilson got one year and one day in prison,” she said. “We are seeing some pretty significant prison sentences that obviously correlate to the amount of money that was stolen from the programs. In this case he's going to owe over a million dollars in restitution on top of the three years that he will serve in prison, and his co conspirator is going to have to pay over $100,000 back.”
She said the Cares Act drew numerous fraudulent loan applications that the IRS is investigating.
“What it looks like now is a small percentage, but it's still a huge hit to the program,” she said. “We have looked at a lot of these cases. We've investigated over 660 cases now nationwide of people who are trying to defraud these Cares Act programs, and it has resulted in about $1.8 billion in fraudulent monies that were received.”
The proceeds were spent on various personal expenses, including the mortgage on Lanius-McLeod’s own home.