PPP Fraudster Learns 'There Is No Easy Money'

Texas' Lee Price III gets 9 years for wire fraud, money laundering
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 30, 2021 10:15 AM CST

(Newser) – A Texas man who fraudulently received $1.6 million in COVID-19 relief money, then bought a $200,000 Lamborghini and a Rolex, has been sentenced to more than nine years in prison. Lee Price III of Houston was sentenced to nine years and two months in prison on Monday after pleading guilty to wire fraud and money laundering charges in September, according to the Justice Department. The 30-year-old "hopes that others will learn from his reckoning that there is no easy money," lawyer Tom Berg tells NBC News. "He has the balance of the 110-month sentence to reflect, repent, and rebuild his misspent life."

Price—who has a lengthy criminal history dating back to when he was a teenager, per KPRC—submitted applications for $2.6 million in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans, meant to help small businesses pay their employees amid the coronavirus pandemic, from two lenders on behalf of three businesses. He ultimately received $900,000 for Price Enterprises, which was purported to have 50 employees and an average monthly payroll of $375,000, and $700,000 for 713 Construction, whose loan application named a CEO who'd died a month previously, KHOU reports. Neither company had a record of employees or payroll, per NBC.

Price had used the funds to buy a Lamborghini Urus, a Ford F-350 truck, and a Rolex watch by the time officials intervened, recovering more than $700,000. He'd also paid off a loan on a residential property and spent $2,000 at a strip club, more than $2,500 at nightclubs, and more than $700 at a liquor store, per CBS News. Authorities have now received more than $75 million in cash, "as well as numerous real estate properties and luxury items purchased with such proceeds" while prosecuting more than 150 individuals for fraudulently obtaining PPP funds in more than 95 criminal cases, the Justice Department says. (Several have been sentenced to prison, including a couple now on the run.)

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