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2 Montana men charged in $1 million COVID-19 relief fraud scheme

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Posted at 6:02 PM, Aug 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-03 20:02:32-04

BILLINGS – Two Montana men were arraigned recently on charges in connection with a scheme to defraud a bank of approximately $1 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans and to use that money to buy property and vehicles, Acting U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson said Tuesday.

Trevor Gene Lanius-McLeod, also known as Trevor Gene McLeod, 48, of Laurel, and Kasey Jones Wilson, 29, of Helena, each pleaded not guilty to bank fraud and engaging in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity.

If convicted of the most serious crime, the defendants face a maximum of 30 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

The government alleged in court documents that from about April 2020 to December 2020, the defendants applied for and received four PPP loans totaling $1,043,000 through Valley Bank of Helena, a division of Glacier Bank, on behalf of four business entities. Lanius-McLeod applied for funds as the authorized representative of T. McLeod Holdings LLC, Hilltop Estates LLC, and Renovated Montana Properties LLP. Lanius-McLeod and Wilson applied for money as the authorized representatives of Step Above Management LLC.

In the applications, the defendants made numerous false statements about having paid payroll taxes and having employees. In promissory notes, the defendants agreed to use the loan funds for payroll costs, costs related to group health care benefits and insurance premiums, rent, utilities, interest on payments on debt and refinancing a Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loan.

Instead, the defendants spent the funds on personal expenses for their private benefit. If convicted, the defendants face the forfeiture of property related to the crimes, including property in East Helena, four vehicles and a travel trailer.

The PPP program, which is part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, provided emergency assistance to small businesses for job retention and certain other expenses.

Lanius-McLeod was arraigned on July 27 before U.S. Magistrate Judge John T. Johnston in Great Falls. Wilson was arraigned on July 27 before U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Cavan in Billings. Both defendants were released pending further proceedings.

Anyone with information about allegations of attempted fraud involving COVID-19 can report it by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) Hotline at 866-720-5721 or online at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form [edit.justice.gov].