GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — A Blountville man must spend 40 months in prison and pay $307,700 in restitution after pleading guilty to defrauding the COVID-19 era “Paycheck Protection” loan program.

Chad Thomas, 41, pleaded guilty to submitting three fraudulent loan applications for the program that was designed to help employers keep on workers during shutdowns. The loans were forgivable and became grants if used according to program rules.

Thomas, a Department of Justice news release says, “submitted false payroll information and included fictitious supporting forms as part of his applications, including IRS forms.”

It says the largest loan of $207,500 came after Thomas incorporated a fake business called “Kingdom of God, Inc.” as a religious organization. Thomas submitted a loan application to a San Diego, Calif.-based lender that claimed Kingdom of God has 26 employees and a monthly payroll of $83,000.

Thomas included himself and family members, including minor children, as well as nationally known religious figures as paid employees.

“Neither the state of Tennessee nor the IRS had any record of Kingdom of God, Inc. ever paying any employees,” the release says.

Law enforcement seized and administratively forfeited $161,938.01 from bank accounts Thomas controlled, according to the release.

The action was part of the Attorney General’s COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force established in May 2021 “to enhance efforts to combat and prevent pandemic-related fraud.”