An Air Force member and his wife lied about owning at least five small and struggling businesses to get $5.1 million in COVID-19 loans during the pandemic, federal officials in Virginia said.
They succeeded in stealing $1.4 million from the government, according to prosecutors.
Malik Mitchum, 26, and Jenna Mitchum, 25, both pleaded guilty on Jan. 12 to submitting several fake loan applications to acquire the money, a news release that same day from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said.
The couple, who used to live in Hampton, weren’t struggling business owners because “in reality” Malik Mitchum was a junior Airman and his wife was unemployed, according to prosecutors. Hampton is 17 miles north of Norfolk where the Norfolk Naval Station is located.
“Mr. Mitchum has accepted responsibility for his errant actions and has expressed remorse for the events which lead to he and his wife being prosecuted in federal court,” the couple’s lawyer, James Broccoletti, told McClatchy News in a statement.
They spent the money they got illegally on “luxury” items, such as a $38,743 Rolex watch, the news release said. As a result, they’re facing a maximum of 30 years in prison.
They intended to get more than $5.1 million in loans meant for small business owners whose expenses were affected by the pandemic, according to officials.
In March 2020, the same month the coronavirus pandemic was declared, and up until May 2021, the husband and wife submitted at least 19 fake applications “for pandemic-related loan benefits that contained false statements and misrepresentations about their income, employment, and claimed business entities,” prosecutors said.
The pair “formed fictitious business entities,” naming them “Alpha 2 Omega Logistics, Southern by the Belle, A20 Auto Brokers, Pure Pressure, and Day and Night Trucking,” according to court documents obtained by McClatchy News.
“All of which were used to fraudulently apply for loans under the” Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and Paycheck Protection Program.
Malik and Jenna Mitchum’s sentencing date is July 29, prosecutors said.
“Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties,” the news release noted.
The court could impose “monetary penalties” alongside restitution, according to court documents.
In regard to the $1.4 million, Broccoletti said Malik Mitchum has “already taken steps to repay the full amount and is dedicated to completing that task.”
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