(The Center Square) — A former Atlanta business owner has been sentenced to five years and ten months in prison after pleading guilty to obtaining fraudulent Paycheck Protection Program funds.
Jose Fernandez, 36, of Winter Haven, Florida, also faces three years of supervised release.
According to the feds, Fernandez operated small businesses in metro Atlanta between 2016 and 2020, including a tax preparation business. Prosecutors said he submitted PPP applications with false information for companies he or his associates controlled and obtained more than $1.6 million in fraudulent PPP funds, which he used to make unauthorized purchases.
“Fernandez committed a litany of frauds, including an attempt to steal millions of dollars from a COVID relief program, financial institutions, and the IRS by stealing the identities of innocent victims to file false tax returns,” U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Buchanan said in an announcement. “His sentence reflects the scope of his criminal conduct.”
Prosecutors also say Fernandez stole thousands of identities of his clients and others from a medical supply company to file false tax returns claiming more than $2 million in fraudulent refunds, though the IRS purportedly stopped most of the funds from going to Fernandez.
The feds also contend Fernandez obtained fraudulent credit cards using family members’ and identity theft victims’ names and made hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent purchases. The feds said he obtained blank tax refund check stock for his tax preparation business and used them to try and write more than $900,000 worth of fraudulent checks.
By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor