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Florida business owner guilty of $2M in coronavirus relief fraud

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MIAMI – A Florida business owner has been convicted of illegally receiving more than $2 million in coronavirus relief funds.

A federal jury in Fort Myers found Casey David Crowther, 35, guilty Friday of bank fraud, making a false statement to a lending institution and two counts of money laundering, according to court records. A sentencing date hasn't been set.

Crowther applied for a loan last April on behalf of his company, Target Roofing & Sheet Metal, Inc., according to a criminal complaint. Prosecutors said he claimed the funds would only be used for business-related purposes, such as retaining workers and paying bills.

But shortly after receiving the money $2.1 million, Crowther made a series of personal purchases, including nearly $690,000 on a 2020 40-foot (12-meter) catamaran, which he registered in his name, the complaint said. He also paid $100,000 to a former business partner.

Crowther concealed the scheme by providing false explanations for the expenditures to his bank, prosecutors said. He added multiple family members to his company’s payroll who did not actually perform work and created 39 fake employees, officials said.

The Paycheck Protection Program represents billions of dollars in forgivable small business loans for Americans struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It's part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which became federal law in March.

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Follow AP coverage of the pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.