Knoxville man pleads guilty to falsifying COVID-19 relief loan applications

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Knoxville man has plead guilty to one county of wire fraud and one county of money laundering after trying to defraud the Small Business Administration out of COVID-19 relief loans.

James Waylon Howell, 39, will be sentenced Jan. 13. He faces up to 20 years in prison, supervised release of up to three years and a fine of up to $250,000. Howell has already agreed to pay restitution to the victims of his fraud in the amount of $69,354.88.

Howell admitted to applying for four loans totaling $154,700 through the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan program as part of his plea deal. Howell submitted false and fraudulent applications under the names of two companies that did not qualify for COVID-19 relief funds. Howell submitted two fraudulent applications to financial institutions seeking PPP funds and two fraudulent applications to the Small Business Administration seeking EIDL funds.

As part of his scheme, Howell submitted false records and statements about the number of individuals the companies employed, revenue and wages. Howell also made false statements about the corporate entities and the intended use of the loan proceeds.

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