Hagerstown man faces federal charges for allegedly forging documents in order to obtain COVID funds | USAO-MD
Baltimore, Maryland – A federal criminal complaint has been filed accusing Jeffrey Bearden, 47, of Hagerstown, Maryland, of misrepresentation and bank fraud. The criminal complaint alleges that in May 2020, Bearden applied for a loan through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The complaint was signed on September 22, 2021 and unsealed during Bearden’s arrest on September 23, 2020.
The federal charge was announced by the Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland, Jonathan F. Lenzner; Special Agent in Charge James R. Mancuso of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Baltimore; and Inspector General Hannibal “Mike” Ware of the Office of the Inspector General of the United States Small Business Administration (SBA OIG).
According to the affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint, on May 1, 2020, Bearden electronically signed forged documents attesting to misrepresentation in order for his company, B&D Consulting, to receive $ 734,609.00 through the PPP for a use in the payment of commercial costs consisting mainly of employee salaries. At that time, the company had no employees and had not reported any wages or salaries for any employees to the Maryland Department of Labor and Licensing (DLLR) in 2020.
As detailed in the affidavit, on May 18, 2020, the funds were approved and deposited into Bearden’s bank account. On the same day, the $ 734,609 was transferred to another bank account. The following month, $ 600,000 was transferred to Bearden’s brokerage account which was used to buy shares in various publicly traded companies, including one that produced a COVID-19 vaccine. The purchase of shares is not an approved use of PPP loan funds by the Small Business Administration.
In February 2021, Bearden applied for a second PPP loan of a similar amount, attaching a fraudulent bank statement for a B&D Consulting account for the month of March 2020 showing that the company was paying salaries to at least 19 people. Records show that no deposits or withdrawals were made to this account as of March 2020 and the account balance was negative.
If convicted, Bearden faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in federal prison for each of these charges. The actual sentences for federal crimes are generally less than the maximum sentences. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account US sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors. In today’s initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, U.S. Magistrate Judge Beth P. Gesner ordered Bearden’s release pending trial.
A criminal complaint is not a guilty verdict. An individual charged with a criminal complaint is presumed innocent unless and until his guilt has been proven in subsequent criminal proceedings.
Acting United States Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner commended the HSI and SBA OIG for their work in the investigation. Mr Lenzner thanked Assistant US Attorney Aaron SJ Zelinsky, who is pursuing the federal case.
On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General created the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Working Group to mobilize the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with government agencies to strengthen efforts to combat and prevent the pandemic fraud. The Working Group strengthens efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable national and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud, among other methods, by scaling up and integrating mechanisms coordination, identifying resources and techniques for uncovering fraudulent actors and their programs, and sharing and leveraging information and knowledge gained from previous enforcement efforts. For more information on the Department’s response to the pandemic, please visit https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus.
Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline at 866-720 -5721 or via the NCDF web complaint form at: https: // www. .justice.gov / disaster-fraud / ncdf-disaster-complaint-form.
For more information on the Maryland US Attorney’s Office, its priorities, and the resources available to help the community, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-md and https://www.justice.gov/usao-md/community -outreach.
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