A man plays on a craps table fitted with protective plexiglass panels during the reopening of Bellagio hotel-casino in June.

REUTERS/Steve Marcus

Prosecutors are going after people scamming the Payment Protection Program, which is designed to give coronavirus relief loans to small businesses.

According to a new indictment from federal prosecutors in California, a man fraudulently obtained nearly $9 million in loans and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on gambling.

And according to another set of charges Thursday, a woman in Arkansas fraudulently got $2 million and used some of the money to pay off student loans and on online shopping.

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A California man was arrested Thursday and charged with lying on his applications to receive nearly $9 million of coronavirus relief loans — and then spending “hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulently obtained loan proceeds” at gambling establishments.

According to a news release from the US Attorney’s Office in central California, 40-year-old Andrew Marnell got the money through applications on behalf of different companies, where he made false and misleading statements about their payroll expenses and operations. Prosecutors said he used fake and altered documents, as well as aliases, to support those fraudulent applications.

Prosecutors say that Marnell then spent hundreds of thousands of dollars from the fraudulent loan proceeds at the Bellagio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, and other gambling establishments, as recently as last weekend. He also moved millions of dollars of other funds to his brokerage account, where he made “risky stock market bets,” prosecutors say.

The funds are part of the federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), designed to offer relief to small businesses impacted by the coronavirus.

Prosecutors are going after people who use the loans for fraud

This is not the first time someone’s been charged with allegedly taking advantage of the PPP program. Also on Thursday, an Arkansas woman, identified by prosecutors as Ganell Tubbs, was arrested and charged with lying to get nearly $2 million in coronavirus relief loans. Her indictment, from the US Attorney’s Office in Arkansas, says she spent some of the money on personal matters, including around $8,000 to pay off student loans and around $6,000 on an online shopping spree.

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According to prosecutors, Tubbs filed applications for two businesses, called “The Little Piglet Soap Company, LLC” and “Suga Girl Customs, LLC.” The indictment says Tubbs falsely reported that the Little Piglet Soap Company had 36 or 56 employees with an average monthly payroll of $165,750 and that Suga Girl Customs had 210 employees with an average monthly payroll of $607,555. Additionally, neither of these companies are “in good standing,” according to the indictment, and Tubbs listed her personal residence and phone number under the contact information for both businesses.

The indictment stated that she used part of the fraudulently obtained money to spend $8,000 on her personal student loans and around $6,000 dollars on online shopping purchases.

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By lying on two applications, Tubbs obtained around $1.5 million for Suga Girl Customs and $400,000 for The Little Piglet Soap Company, according to prosecutors.

After appearing in court on Thursday, Tubbs was released on bond, according to ABC affiliate KATV.

The PPP loans have been essential in keeping small businesses afloat as the coronavirus pandemic ravages the economy, but they are not without their problems. A recent study by the National Community Reinvestment Coalition found that White applicants were more likely to be encouraged than Black applicants when applying for loans. The study points out, however, that the limited availability of data has prevented extensive study into discrimination in PPP funding distribution. 

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