MIL-OSI Security: Former Iowa Businessman Sentenced to Federal Prison in Pandemic Benefits Fraud Scheme

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Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) State Crime Alerts (b)

A former Iowa businessman who defrauded the federal and state governments out of over $150,000 in pandemic benefits, and who also possessed firearms and ammunition after multiple prior felony convictions, was sentenced today to five years in federal prison.  Justin Eugene Dowie, age 41, from Cedar Rapids, received the prison term after pleading guilty on July 19, 2023, to one count of bank fraud, one count of money laundering, and one count of possessing ammunition as a felon.

Evidence at Dowie’s sentencing, and other hearings in the case, showed that, in 2020 and 2021, Dowie repeatedly submitted false applications to the Small Business Administration (“SBA”) in attempts to receive Paycheck Protection Program loans (“PPPs”) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans (“EIDLs”).  During the pandemic, Congress authorized PPPs and EIDLs to assist businesses and individuals suffering financial impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dowie applied for approximately $1 million in PPPs and EIDLs from the SBA, and while many of his attempts were unsuccessful, he received over $100,000 from the SBA in his own name and using a stolen identity.  During the same timeframe, Dowie also received over $50,000 in fraudulent unemployment insurance benefits from the State of Iowa, again using his own name and a stolen identity.  Dowie also perpetrated other fraud schemes on individual victims, including stealing insurance benefits intended for a victim of the derecho—a severe windstorm that damaged numerous properties in the Cedar Rapids area in August 2020—and obtaining over $13,000 from a line of credit.

Dowie is a former businessman in the Cedar Rapids and Des Moines areas.  He is also a convicted felon with sixteen prior criminal convictions, including five drunk driving convictions in state court.  In late 2022 and early 2023, Dowie possessed firearms and ammunition even though he was prohibited from doing so

on account of his criminal record, which included felonies for drunk driving in 2008, conspiracy to commit a nonforcible felony in 2015, and attempted eluding in 2018.  While Dowie illegally possessed the firearms and ammunition, he refused to leave another man’s home after the other man had temporarily allowed Dowie to stay in the home during a snowstorm and cold weather.  The other man ultimately had to leave his own home when Dowie took it over illegally.

Dowie was sentenced in Cedar Rapids by United States District Court Judge C.J. Williams.  Dowie was sentenced to 60 months’ imprisonment.  He was ordered to make $190,539.65 in restitution to the victims of his crimes, including the federal and state governments.  He must also serve a five-year term of supervised release after the prison term.  There is no parole in the federal system.

On May 17, 2021, the Attorney General established the COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to marshal the resources of the Department of Justice in partnership with agencies across government to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud. The Task Force bolsters efforts to investigate and prosecute the most culpable domestic and international criminal actors and assists agencies tasked with administering relief programs to prevent fraud by, among other methods, augmenting and incorporating existing coordination mechanisms, identifying resources and techniques to uncover fraudulent actors and their schemes, and sharing and harnessing information and insights gained from prior 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.

Dowie is being held in the United States Marshal’s custody until he can be transported to a federal prison.  The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Timothy L. Vavricek and investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The Small Business Administration, Office of Inspector General, assisted the investigation. 

Court file information at https://ecf.iand.uscourts.gov/cgi-bin/login.pl

The case file numbers are 23-CR-10 and 23-CR-55.

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