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Norfolk man pleads guilty to COVID-19 loan fraud scheme

Joseph Cherry II pleaded guilty to wire fraud and theft of government property after fraudulently filling out applications to get COVID-19 disaster relief funds.
Credit: WVEC

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — A man pleaded guilty to charges that stemmed from fraudulently filling out applications to get funds related to coronavirus disaster relief.

According to the indictment, Joseph Cherry II wanted to fake his way into obtaining disaster-related loan benefits through the United States Small Business Administration (SBA) sponsored Economic Injury Disaster (EIDL) loans and a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan.

These programs are all under the CARES Act that's meant to distribute loans and benefits to business owners affected by the COVID-19 crisis.

Cherry, 39, engaged in this scheme from March 2020 and April 2020, a period in which he was serving a term of federal supervised release. He submitted false information on the loan applications related to businesses he claimed to own, income, employment and his employment record. He received $196,000 in proceeds.

Then, he converted about $140,000 of those proceeds to cash or a cashier's check and bought items that weren't consistent with the PPP and EIDL programs.

He was charged with wire fraud, theft of government property, false statements to the small business administration, and money laundering.

Cherry pleaded guilty to wire fraud and theft of government property. He faces a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison when sentenced on March 11, 2020.

RELATED: Norfolk man charged with fraud after applying for COVID-19 disaster-related loans