IRS Slaps Montana CARES Act Crooks with Heavy Fines and Prison
Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Monday is the third anniversary of the enactment of the CARES Act (The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act) and the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Unit reached out to KGVO News with details on just two of the major prosecutions involving Montanans who defrauded the system.
The IRS Profiled Two Individuals who Defrauded the CARES Act
Amanda Prestegard, Assistant Special Agent in Charge with IRS CI (Criminal Investigations) with the Denver Field Office provided some background on the many criminal investigations into CARES Act fraud.
“Today marks the three-year anniversary of the CARES Act, which was enacted by Congress to help provide relief to those who were suffering, especially small businesses and people who are running their own businesses to provide financial aid to them in light of all of the significant financial challenges that came up during COVID,” began Prestegard.
One Person Defrauded the CARES Act for over $1 Million
Prestegard pointed to one case, in particular, involving an East Helena man, 48-year-old Trevor Gene Lanius-McLeod, and a co-defendant who took advantage of the COVID Paycheck Protection Plan.
“First is a case that involved Mr. Lanius McLeod and his co-conspirator, Casey Wilson,” she said. “Basically, they used information on businesses that did not really exist, and they did a number of what are called PPP or Paycheck Protection Program loans to the tune of over a million dollars. They were able to get a million dollars from the fund, basically making up companies and saying that they had employees that they did not have and saying that they had expenses that they did not have.”
One Individual Used the Money to buy Classic Cars
Another individual, Michael Bolte, a restaurant owner from Shepherd, Montana, was convicted of defrauding the Small Business Administration under the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. Prestegard provided more information on how Bolte was apprehended and prosecuted.
“Mr. Bolte was so brazen as to communicate with people before he even got the loan that he falsely told them about the classic cars that he was going to purchase once he got that money,” she said. “He used a business that no longer existed and he made an application for funds that he needed and then he turned around and bought $77,000 worth of classic cars. We were able to seize all of those cars, and Mr. Bolte pled guilty to theft of government funds.”
Prestegard said nearly a thousand cases were prosecuted with a total of more than $3 billion in the alleged fraud.
“Nationwide we have investigated close to 975 to one thousand tax and money laundering cases related to COVID fraud, and that alleged fraud has gone over $3.2 billion,” she said. “We are working to not only charge those people but the asset forfeiture, the recouping of those funds is so important, getting them back to the program, so that people that need it can still access it. In addition, our conviction rate on these cases is incredibly impressive with a 98 percent conviction rate and our average for these cases when people are sentenced to prison is 37 months.”
The IRS Criminal Investigation program prosecutes financial crimes, tax fraud, narcotics trafficking, money laundering, and public corruption cases.