Mountain Home Couple Plead Guilty to Charges in Connection with Obtaining Covid-19 Relief Funds

U.S. Attorney’s Office – Western District of Arkansas, March 17, 2021

Fort Smith, Arkansas – David Clay Fowlkes, Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Arkansas, announced that James Read, age 44, and his wife, Crystal Payne, age 42, both of Mountain Home, Arkansas, pleaded guilty to charges stemming from their attempts to obtaining pandemic relief funds unlawfully. The Honorable Judge P. K. Holmes III accepted the pleas in the U.S. District Court in Fort Smith.

According to the plea agreement in his case, Read applied to the Small Business Administration for Payment Protection Program (PPP) funds, which, as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, are forgivable loans intended for businesses struggling with essential expenses, such as payroll, during the pandemic. In that application, Read provided inflated wage and employee data about his business, SnowbirdBob LLC, and provided falsified tax documents. He further admitted to laundering the PPP loan proceeds by purchasing a new vehicle.

Read also pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud for attempting to obtain unemployment benefits for himself and others in Louisiana. He falsely represented that he lived and worked in Louisiana to Louisiana’s state unemployment administrator.

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