We’ll preface this by saying that when things work as they’re meant to, we don’t hear about them. When it comes to the Paycheck Protection Program, created as part of the CARES Act in March to provide loans to businesses to pay employees during the coronavirus lockdown, that means many jobs were saved but we also get stories of honest businesspeople unable to get loans or blackguards abusing the program. This story is the latter. David T. Hines, a 29-year-old Miami man with four businesses, applied for PPP funds in May. He received about $3.9 million in loans, and blew about $500,000 of that before the government began investigating and his bank froze his accounts.
Instead of applying for loans to cover monthly expenditures of about $200,000 among his four moving-related companies, the feds say, Hines’ four applications through Bank of America claimed combined monthly expenses of $4 million to pay 70 employees. BofA approved three of the four submissions. After the government made its first of three planned deposits of $3,984,557 into Hines’ Bank of America account, Hines continued requesting more money, authorities say, ultimately seeking $13.54 million.
The spending began almost immediately after the PPP disbursement. As far as the government could tell by going through Hines’ records, none of the money was spent on employees who “either did not exist or earned a fraction of what Hines claimed in his PPP applications.” Instead, officials say, Hines picked up a blue Lamborghini Huracán Evo for $318,497. He paid a person he listed as “Mom” $60,000. Saks Fifth Avenue got another $4,000. In June, $8,500 went to the Graff jewelry boutique, and $7,000 went to Miami’s Setai hotel.
The disbursement problem has arisen because the Small Business Administration that backs the PPP loans doesn’t verify the claims in the applications, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Berger. How did Hines get caught, then? He got into a hit-and-run accident in his blue Lamborghini in July, and Miami police impounded the car. That eventually attracted investigation from no less than six governmental departments: the FDIC-OIG, USPIS, IRS-CI, the SBA-OIG, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, and the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection-OIG.
The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday announced it had charged Hines with one count of bank fraud, one count of making false statements to a financial institution, and one count of engaging in transactions in unlawful proceeds. The maximum penalty for all charges would earn Hines 70 years in prison. He is free on a $100,000 bond until his arraignment on October 14, permitted to live with his mother while wearing a GPS monitor.
Hines’ lawyer, Chad Piotrowski, called Hines “a legitimate business owner who, like millions of Americans, suffered financially during the pandemic” and who is “anxious to tell his side of the story when the time comes.”