BILLINGS – A Laurel man admitted today that he attempted to illegally obtain $35,000 from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a federal loan program created to help businesses struggling during the coronavirus pandemic, Acting U.S Attorney Leif Johnson said.
Matthew Jason Welch, 37, pleaded guilty to wire fraud. Welch faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
The indictment against Welch is the first PPP fraud case to be charged in Montana. The PPP program was created through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help businesses struggling with the financial effects of the pandemic.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Cavan presided. Judge Cavan released Welch pending further proceedings. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
In court documents filed in the case, the prosecution said that on April 23, Welch submitted a false PPP loan application to one of the participating lenders in the name of Welch Sole Proprietorship seeking about $35,000 to support payroll, lease and mortgage interest costs and utility costs. The PPP application identified Welch as the 100 percent owner of Welch Sole Proprietorship and was signed by Welch.
Welch falsely certified in the application that he was not “subject to an indictment, criminal information, arraignment, or other means by which formal criminal charges are brought in any jurisdiction.” Welch was actually subject to felony criminal charges in Montana and Wyoming. Through email and by phone, Welch repeatedly asserted falsely that he did not have any pending criminal charges and was eligible for a PPP loan.
On May 14, in a phone call with a law enforcement agent posing as a representative of the lender, Walsh falsely stated that he did not have any criminal charges pending against him as of the date of the PPP application, April 23. Investigators also later learned that Welch did not plan to use the loan funds to maintain his payroll but rather to pay off a restitution obligation in one of his felony cases.
In a telephone interview with agents, Welch admitted to submitting the application and materials to the lender and confirmed he was in Montana at the time.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Colin Rubich and Michael Kakuk and William Johnston, assistant chief of the Fraud Section, Criminal Division, of the U.S. Department of Justice, are prosecuting the case. The Small Business Administration and the U.S. Secret Service investigated the case.