KEY POINTS

  • Lee Price III, 30, was sentenced to 110 months in prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud and money laundering
  • Price fraudulently obtained $1.6 million from COVID-19 business loans and used the money on a luxury car, among others
  • Authorities have seized over $700,000 of the funds, and Price must forfeit some of the things he had purchased

A 30-year-old man from Texas was sentenced to prison this week after he fraudulently obtained more than $1.6 million from the government's COVID-19 business loans program and used the financial aid on a luxury car and watch, among other things.

Lee Price III, of Houston, was sentenced to 110 months in prison Monday following his guilty plea last September to charges of wire fraud and money laundering, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a statement released on the day of Price's sentencing.

Price had submitted fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan applications amounting to $2.6 million to two different lenders on behalf of the entities 713 Construction LLC, Price Enterprises Holding LLC and Price Logistic Services LLC, according to the DOJ.

The first loan application requested $752,452 on behalf of an Ohio resident who had passed away before the application was submitted, CNN reported, citing court records. The application claimed the company had 30 employees with an average payroll of $300,981, but there were no employees and no payroll, according to the outlet.

PPP loans, which are granted by the Small Business Administration program under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, are intended to help small business owners cover operating expenses during the COVID-19 crisis and provide incentives for employers to retain their employees.

Price, however, used $85,000 of the money from the first loan to buy a Ford F-350 from a car dealership in the Houston area 18 days after he electronically signed a supplemental form for the loan on May 3, 2020.

Funds from the second approved application, which was approved and electronically signed by Price on June 30, 2020, were also used to buy a $233,337.60 2019 Lamborghini Urus sports utility vehicle and a $14,343.13 Rolex watch the next day.

Price also used the funds he obtained to pay off a loan on a residential property, the DOJ said.

All of Price’s applications, which were supported by fraudulent tax records and other materials, contained falsely represented employee numbers and payroll expenses. 

Additionally, Price reportedly lied in the second application as he claimed he was not subject to any pending criminal charges, on probation or parole despite public records showing he faced felony charges of tampering with a government record in Harris County, Texas.

The department and law enforcement partners were able to seize over $700,000 of the funds Price fraudulently obtained. He must now forfeit the Lamborghini Urus, the Ford F-350 and the Rolex watch, as indicated in the court documents.

"Mr. Price hopes that others will learn from his reckoning that there is no easy money," Price's attorney, Tom Berg, was quoted as saying.

"He has the balance of the 110-month sentence to reflect, repent and rebuild his misspent life," the lawyer added.

Price, who has been in custody at the Joe Corley Detention Facility in Texas after his bond was revoked in August 2020, filed a notice of appeal in the case Monday.

The Department of Justice said scam artists have tried to steal more than $175 million from the Paycheck Protection Program The Department of Justice said scam artists have tried to steal more than $175 million from the Paycheck Protection Program Photo: AFP / Alastair Pike