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Eleven indicted in Nebraska in scheme to defraud federal COVID-19 aid programs

By: - May 25, 2022 3:38 pm

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Eleven people were indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury in Nebraska in a scheme to fraudulently claim $7.6 million in benefits from the federal Payroll Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans program.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Omaha said in a press release that one of those indicted, Ramel Thompson, had coached the others on how to file fraudulent applications on behalf of 14 businesses.

None of the businesses had the employees claimed on the applications, the indictment alleged, and none of the money was used for expenses allowed under the programs, such as payroll, rent, utilities and mortgage interest.

The 11 were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering. 

 “We will not tolerate PPP funds being fraudulently used to line someone’s pockets while citizens of our country were battling a pandemic,” said Eugene Kowel, the FBI Omaha Special Agent in Charge.

Jan Sharp, U.S. attorney for the District of Nebraska, said the indictments grew out of a special task force set up by the Department of Justice to investigate and prosecute COVID-related fraud schemes.

The FBI’s Omaha field office was assisted in the arrests by the Omaha Police Department and the FBI field offices in Atlanta, Las Vegas and Minneapolis. In addition, searches conducted resulted in the seizure of $64,000 in cash, $196,000 in seized bank accounts, seven handguns and one shotgun.

In addition to Thompson, those indicted were: Carl Estwick, Jackie Harper, Tarysh G. Hogue, Richard L. Kelly, Lenfield Kendrick, Henry T. Lewis, Trevor A. McNeil, Michael A. Perkins, Michael A. Perkins Jr. and Shawn Prater.

Most were taken into custody in Omaha. McNeil was arrested in Atlanta, and  Kendrick was arrested in Las Vegas.

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Paul Hammel
Paul Hammel

Senior Reporter Paul Hammel has covered the Nebraska Legislature and Nebraska state government for decades. He started his career reporting for the Omaha Sun and later, editing the Papillion Times group in suburban Omaha. He joined the Lincoln Journal-Star as a sports enterprise reporter, and then a roving reporter covering southeast Nebraska. In 1990, he was hired by the Omaha World-Herald as a legislative reporter. Later, for 15 years, he roamed the state covering all kinds of news and feature stories. In the past decade, he served as chief of the Lincoln Bureau and enterprise reporter. Paul has won awards for reporting from Great Plains Journalism, the Associated Press, Nebraska Newspaper Association and Suburban Newspapers of America. A native of Ralston, Nebraska, he is vice president of the John G. Neihardt Foundation, a member of the Nebraska Hop Growers and a volunteer caretaker of Irvingdale Park in Lincoln.

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