Starkville man pleads guilty to a COVID-Relief fraud scheme involving $6M

Published 2:15 pm Monday, May 16, 2022

A Starkville man pleaded guilty today to one count of wire fraud in connection with a scheme to defraud the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) of more than $6 million in COVID-19 relief loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

According to court documents, Christopher Paul Lick, 47, of Starkville devised a scheme to defraud and obtain PPP funds by filing false and fraudulent loan applications with banks providing loans as part of the Paycheck Protection Program.

Lick admitted to overstating his purported businesses’ number of employees and payroll expenses to receive PPP funds. Rather than use the PPP funds for his businesses, Lick admitted purchasing a home valued at more than $1 million and using the PPP funds for personal investments in the stock market.

“The amount of PPP fraud and EIDL loan fraud committed in this district and nationwide is staggering,” stated United States Attorney Clay Joyner. “The CARES Act loan programs were intended to help small businesses and families struggling to survive during a difficult pandemic. Unfortunately, far too many individuals like the defendant abused these programs for their benefit. Today’s guilty plea is a significant step in bringing to justice those who abused these programs, but it is only the first step. Our office will continue to prosecute violations of the CARES Act—large or small—to recover as many stolen taxpayer dollars as possible.”

Lick is scheduled to be sentenced on August 12, 2022, before Senior District Judge Glen Davidson and faces up to 30 years in federal prison.

The FBI’s Oxford Resident Agency is investigating the case. Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Levy and AUSA Sam Wright are prosecuting the case.

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 Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form at: https://www.justice.gov/disaster-fraud/ncdf-disaster-complaint-form