CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – “Now under new ownership.”
That sign now hangs outside the Carolina Fish Market in Ballantyne after previous owner James Seidel was indicted for COVID-19 fraud.
According to court documents, he defrauded the Small Business Administration using Economic Injury Disaster Loan funds to buy cryptocurrency.
“Anytime there’s a large amount of money available to people, there is going to be a segment of people that look for the opportunity to enrich themselves,” said Dena King, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
King says her office has diligently prosecuted COVID-era loan fraud. In a June report, the Small Business Administration estimated more than $200 billion had been disbursed to fraudsters, amounting to 17 percent of COVID-era loans handed out.
“There are somewhere people who did not even have legitimate businesses up until the pandemic,” King said.
While some have been near slam-dunk cases, other applications show legitimate business owners who fudged numbers on employees, the amount of money their business typically brought in, or business expenses.
King says in some cases, they’re uncovering another layer of where the fraud was actually committed.
“There were also a number of people that touted themselves as preparers, so people could actually go to consultants or preparers who would fill out these applications on their behalf, including a number of fraudulent information to be able to help the individuals to obtain these loans, but then also these consultants, so to speak, were able to get a percentage of that,” King said.