GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — If you cheated taxpayers when it came to collecting federal COVID-19 relief funds, the government is coming for you: That’s the word from Homeland Security Investigations after a Grand Rapids man was sentenced for doing just that.
Businesses took a major hit during pandemic-related lockdowns, so Congress passed and President Donald Trump rolled out the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, better known as the CARES Act. About $659 million provided businesses with a way to pay employees who couldn’t work because of shutdown mandates through the Paycheck Protection Program.
But the government said some employers took advantage of that relief and Erik Post was one of them.
“The original loan, it’s my understanding, was a little over $300,000. So the restitution was ordered at $217,000,” said Michael Flanagan, assistant special agent in charge of the Grand Rapids office of Homeland Security Investigations.
Post, who pleaded guilty to bank fraud in September, owned Grand Rapids-based Datamotio LLC, a company that provided financial services to local businesses. The government said Post inflated both his staff size and payroll expenses in applying for a PPP loan. The investigation showed Post spent the extra money he got on personal expenses.
Along with the restitution, Post was sentenced to 18 months in prison for the scheme earlier this week.
Another federal agency tipped the West Michigan Homeland Security Investigations office off to Post’s fraud. Flanagan wouldn’t provide specifics on that tip because agents don’t want the bad guys to figure out how they’re caught. But he did say the investigation should send a message to those trying to defraud taxpayers that there’s a good chance of getting caught.
“This fraud is not a victimless crime,” Flanagan said. “It really affects the honest, hardworking taxpayers throughout the country. And it affects the honest businesses that are working here in West Michigan who were trying to keep people employed through the pandemic.”
If you suspect fraud connected to Payroll Protection Program, call the HSI tipline at 866.347.2423.
— Correction: A previous version of this article misstated Michael Flanagan’s title. We regret the error, which has been fixed.