A Bloomington man was sentenced to serve 41 months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering last week.
In total, Robert Hall, a 73-year-old man, attempted to steal $668,746.14, but due to blocked and reversed transactions, he only successfully received $399,868.36.
From September 2019 to December 2020, Hall conspired with others to defraud several businesses, states and the Small Business Administration through COVID-19 relief programs and business email compromise schemes, according to the Department of Justice press release.
Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act in March 2020, which intended to provide relief for those suffering economic effects from the pandemic, by establishing programs like the Paycheck Protection Program, according to the U.S. Department of The Treasury.
The Small Business Administration received a fraudulent application for a Paycheck Protection Program loan without the knowledge or consent of the supposed beneficiaries, and the proceeds of the loan were deposited to an account controlled by Hall in July of 2020, according to a press release from the United States Attorney’s Office.
From May 2020 to December 2020, applications for unemployment benefits were submitted to six different states using more than a dozen stolen identities. The unemployment benefits were deposited into Hall’s accounts.
In September 2019, an employee of Victim Business 1 received a fraudulent email pretending to be a vendor that the business had worked with in the past, according to the United States Attorney’s Office. The email explained that due to an audit involving the supposed vendor’s primary bank account, their future payments should be made to a different account. The account named in the email belonged to Hall under the guise of an electric company. This fraudulent email caused this business to unknowingly transfer $113,550 into Hall’s personal account.
Hall took around 20% of the funds from the fraudulent deposits as compensation for his role in the schemes, then transferred the remaining money to his reported co-conspirators through both Bitcoin purchases and checks.
Jeffrey Adams, special agent in charge of the U.S. Secret Service Indianapolis Field Office said in the press release Hall and his co-conspirators took advantage of government programs that were intended to assist small businesses and individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The Secret Service remains committed to aggressively pursuing fraudsters who target the financial infrastructure of the United States," Adams said in the press release.
District Court Judge Richard Young ordered that Hall be supervised by the U.S. Probation Office for three years following his release from federal prison.