Does that Candle Come Scented in Fraud?

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COVID-19 must have been a big relief for Christopher Lick from Starkville, Mississippi, and business owner of four companies, when the government signed the CARES Act providing loans as part of the Paycheck Protection Program. Business was struggling for Lick, having just closed one store, Grass Roots Candle Shop, while the other three, Aspen River Candle Company, GTR Holdings and Aspen Lake Online, had “intent to dissolve” notices pending with the Mississippi Secretary of State for failure to file an annual report.

On May 16, 2022, Lick pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) of more than $6 million in COVID-19 relief loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Lick devised a scheme to obtain funds by filing false and fraudulent loan applications with banks providing PPP loans for all four of his businesses, including the one already closed. Lick admitted to overstating the number of employees and payroll expenses of his purported businesses to inflate the business need, declaring he had 743 employees in locations across the country and in Canada, with average monthly payroll expenses in the six-figure range.

Borrowers of the PPE loans are given 24 weeks to spend the funds received and Lick didn’t wait. But rather than using the PPP funds for his businesses, Lick purchased and moved into a home valued at more than $1 million and bought a Tesla for more than $100,000.   He also moved over $1.4 million in small increments from the bank account that held the PPE funds, to his Robinhood account to trade in stocks over the last 10 months.

Lick is scheduled to be sentenced on August 12, 2022, before Senior District Judge Glen Davidson and faces up to 30 years in federal prison.

Well done by FBI’s Oxford Resident Agency in the investigation of this case.

Today’s “Fraud of the Day” is based on an article, posted by WJTV, on May 14, 2022

STARKVILLE MAN CHARGED WITH MORE THAN $6MILLION IN COVID RELIEF FRAUD

Starkville man was arrested Thursday by FBI Special Agents after being indicted by a federal grand jury on criminal charges related to his alleged fraud scheme exceeding $6 million in federal COVID-19 Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans.

According to court documents, Christopher P. Lick, 45, created a scheme to defraud and obtain PPP funds. He allegedly filed false and fraudulent loan applications with banks providing loans as part of PPP, including Customers Bank and Cross River Bank.

 

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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.