A New Jersey man admitted on Wednesday that he had stolen more than $ 481,000 from a government program aimed at providing financial aid to small businesses affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
Bernard Lopez, 40, of Cyrillic, also admitted to tampering with a stolen check from the US Treasury. The defendant changed the amount of the check from $ 1,886.87 to $ 211,886.87, and deposited it into a bank account he had created for fake work.
The US Attorney’s Office for New Jersey said in a statement on Wednesday that Lopez pleaded guilty to a charge of bank fraud and stealing government funds. The defendant faces up to 30 years in federal prison for bank fraud and 10 years for stealing government money. He is scheduled to be sentenced on October 6.
Lopez founded the fictitious company, Pezlo Management, in September 2014 and claimed to operate in North Brunswick, according to indictment documents. Then, in October 2019, he opened a bank account in the company name. The following February, Lopez used a stolen Social Security number to obtain the check and changed the payee’s name and amount, plaintiffs said.
According to court documents, Lopez’s modified check was originally transferred to a company in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.
Eight days later, the defendant withdrew $ 5,000 from one account, then transferred another $ 129,000 to other accounts he controlled, according to court documents.
Lopez also applied for a loan from the Paycheck Protection Scheme, saying he had 25 employees, a monthly payroll outlay of about $ 192,000, plus rental and utility expenses. The loan was approved and raised $ 481,502.
Authorities said Lopez was arrested on July 6 in Florida before being extradited to New Jersey.