Arkansas Project Manager Sentenced in Connection With COVID-Relief Fraud

U.S. Attorney’s Office – Northern District of Oklahoma, December 7, 2020

A project manager employed by a major retailer was sentenced to 24 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release for fraudulently seeking more than $8 million in forgivable loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney R. Trent Shores of the Northern District of Oklahoma.

Benjamin Hayford, 32, of Centerton, Arkansas, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Claire V. Eagan.  Hayford pleaded guilty in August to an indictment charging him with fraudulently seeking millions of dollars in forgivable loans guaranteed by the SBA from multiple banks by claiming fictitious payroll expenses.  To support his applications, Hayford provided lenders with fraudulent payroll documentation purporting to establish payroll expenses that were, in fact, non-existent.  In addition, Hayford admitted to making false representations to a financial institution concerning the date that a Limited Liability Partnership for which he applied for relief was established.  The lenders at issue declined to fund the loans that Hayford sought.

“Small businesses are vital employers to 60 million Americans. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many small businesses are treading water, and the Paycheck Protection Program is a lifeline to help keep employees on their payrolls,” said U.S. Attorney Trent Shores. “Benjamin Hayford, and those like him, seek to enrich themselves at the expense of others in need during these uncertain times.  Across the United States, these fraudsters are being brought to justice, including Hayford who will spend the next two years in federal prison.”

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