Hoʻopunipuni

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Male hands counting dollars, black salary, money laundering, illegal business, stock footage

With tourism as the state’s biggest industry, Covid-19 threw Hawaii for a loop. In 2019, Hawaii had a record year bringing in 10.4 million tourists from all around the world. Businesses like Kanaka Maoli Hookupu Center, described as a Hawaiian Culture and Historical learning center producing Hawaiian experiences like luaus and hula dance shows, provided abundant employment opportunities, giving Hawaii one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country at the time.

When Covid travel restrictions and mandated quarantines began in 2020, that employment rate soon became one of the worst in the country. Which is why the CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program was essential to the survival of so many people. The PPP loan was passed to help small businesses keep their workforce employed. But Carey Mills, the owner Kanaka Maoli Hookupu Center, spent his PPP loans in other ways.

The name Kanaka Maoli Hookpu translates to “A Real Human Being,” a nice warm name for a business which might allude to the personality of the owner. Unfortunately, the business is now closed and Mills will be known as a real fraud instead (Hoʻopunipuni in Hawaiian if anyone is interested!). From May 2020 to August 2020, Mills submitted multiple applications for PPP and EIDL funds on behalf of his business. In those applications were fraudulent payroll documents and IRS forms, which included false employee and wage payment records. As a result of these applications, Mills received close to $1 million. Did the hula dances keep going? No. He used his PPP winnings to purchase eight vehicles and two residential properties.

Mills will be spending the next three and half years in prison with no cars to pick him up at the end of his sentence. Full restitution has been ordered. When Chief Judge Watson imposed the sentence, he stated: “Stealing one million dollars of federal funds is no joke.” Agreed.

Great job by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration who are dedicated finding the criminals, like Mills, who abused the benefits made for people in need during the pandemic.

Today’s Fraud of the Day is based on an article “Hilo man sentenced to 42 months in prison for defrauding COVID-19 relief programs” published by Maui Now on November 25, 2022

A Hilo man was sentenced in federal court to 42 months in federal prison for wire fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud the federal government of program funds intended for COVID-19-related relief.

Carey Mills, 47, pleaded guilty to a single-count information on May 17, 2022. In addition to a term of imprisonment, the Chief US District Judge Derrick K. Watson also imposed a five-year term of supervised release and ordered Mills to pay restitution to the Small Business Administration in the amount of $937,575.

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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.