COVID Feature: Caught, Charged, Convicted, and Sentenced

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Can you believe that it has been nearly a year since Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act? (Either time flies when you’re having fun or more realistically, it comes to a standstill when a pandemic takes over the world.)

The CARES Act allocated up to $349 billion in forgivable loans to be distributed to small businesses to ensure job retention. (Fraudsters saw this as a perfect opportunity to make a few extra bucks for themselves.) Since the act was passed in March 2020, many fraudsters have been charged and sentenced for trying to exploit money earmarked for the economic relief of struggling businesses.

Benjamin Hayford of Centerton, Arkansas is one of the criminals who tried to exploit the unfortunate situation. He fraudulently sought more than $8 million in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA).(I’m sure he wanted to spend some of that money on a lavish vacation, but it looks like the only trip he’ll be taking is to prison.)  

Hayford previously worked as the senior manager of global technology operations and portfolio at Walmart, Inc. before pleading guilty in August 2020 to one count of bank fraud and four counts of false statements to a financial institution. (Not sure how employable he’ll be after this.)  

Hayford admitted that he claimed false payroll expenses by providing fraudulent payroll documentation in seeking PPP loans from multiple banks. (Every fraudster thinks their plan is foolproof until they get caught and must admit what they did.)   

PPP loans are intended for small businesses who are struggling to meet payroll. The loans are forgivable if a certain percentage is used to make payroll or pay for other business expenses such as rent, mortgage, and overhead costs. These loans can help small businesses stay afloat and help families keep food on their table. (Instead Hayford tried to “get rich quick” at the expense of the American taxpayer.)

Hayford made false representations to a financial institution when applying for PPP loans by falsifying the date that a limited liability partnership was established. Hayford claimed that the company was established in January and was operating as of February 15, 2020. Actually, Hayford did not create the company until April, just a few days before he began applying for the PPP loans. (Did he really think that the bank would not do any fact checking?)

 

Hayford was sentenced to two years in prison and is expected to subsequently serve five years of supervised release. (Not only has he lost two years of his life to a jail sentence, but also any credibility he may have had.)

 

Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an article, “Arkansas man convicted of COVID-19 relief fraud to spend 2 years in federal prison,” published by Tulsa World on December 8, 2020.

 

An Arkansas man convicted of COVID-19 relief fraud will spend two years in prison, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Oklahoma announced Monday.

 

Benjamin Hayford of Centerton, Arkansas, will subsequently serve five years of supervised release for seeking more than $8 million in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act.

 

 

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Larry Benson, Senior Director of Strategic Alliances, LexisNexis Risk Solutions - Government

Larry Benson is responsible for developing strategic partnerships and solutions for the government vertical. His expertise focuses on how government programs are defrauded by criminal groups, and the approaches necessary to prevent them from succeeding.

Mr. Benson has 30 years of experience in sales and business development. Before joining LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, he spent 12 years founding and managing two software technology startups. During the 1990s he spent 10 years as a Regional Director helping to grow a New England-based technology company from 300 employees to 7,000. He started his career with Martin Marietta Aerospace working on laser guided weapons and day/night vision systems.

A sought-after speaker and accomplished writer, Mr. Benson is the principal author of “Fraud of the Day,” a website dedicated to educating government officials about how criminals are defrauding government programs. He has co-authored WTF? Where’s the Fraud? How to Unmask and Stop Identity Fraud’s Drain on Our Government, and Data Personified, How Fraud is Changing the Meaning of Identity.

Benson holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Albright College, and earned two graduate degrees – a Master of Business Administration from Florida Institute of Technology, and a Master of Science in Engineering from Lehigh University.