Former Congressional candidate Nicholas Jones has pleaded guilty to charges of using Covid-19 relief funds for personal expenditures and falsifying records.
Court documents revealed that 26-year-old Jones from Boise in Idaho, applied for and received Covid-19 relief funds totaling $753,600 via the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loans in 2020. Jones had previously certified that the funds would only be used for business-related expenditures, but actually used a significant amount for personal and political expenses.
Criminal Candidate Targets Aid Programs
The Paycheck Protection Program is a $953-billion business loan program established in 2020 through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Its aim is to help certain businesses, self-employed workers, entrepreneurs and some non-profit organizations to continue paying their workers. Those eligible can apply for low-interest private loans to pay for their payroll and certain other work-related costs.
The Economic Injury Disaster Loans is for small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and most private non-profit organizations situated in a declared disaster area. Those eligible will have suffered substantial economic injury.
To appear eligible for the funds, Jones falsified records to conceal thousands of dollars of in-kind contributions by employees in a report to the Federal Elections Commission. Significant amounts of the money he received from both aid programs was spent on the likes of car payments, life insurance policies and even political advertisements.
Congressional Campaign Funded by Aid Programs
A statement on the Department of Justice website revealed more details on how Jones attempted to defraud the programs: “In 2020, Jones ran as a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives. Jones told employees of his small business that they could continue to be paid their normal wages if they worked on his congressional campaign.
“Employees reported to work on behalf of Jones’s congressional campaign and were paid thousands of dollars in wages through Jones’s small business including, in part, with funds Jones had received as part of a PPP loan. After losing the primary election, Jones caused his campaign committee to file a campaign finance report with the FEC, which omitted any in-kind contributions from any entity or individual other than Jones, including the thousands of dollars of in-kind contributions to his campaign in the form of employee time and work.”
Jones Facing a Maximum Prison Sentence of 40 Years
Jones’ guilty plea to charges of wire fraud and falsification of records was heard in the U.S. District Court of Idaho. He will be sentenced at a later date, with the maximum sentence possible being 40 years in prison. The actual sentence will be decided by a federal district court judge who will consider the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines as well as numerous other statutory factors.
The announcement of the case was made by Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, along with U.S. Attorney Rafael M. Gonzalez, Jr., for the District of Idaho. Joining them for the announcement was Special Agent in Charge Dennis Rice of the FBI’s Salt Lake City Field Office, who was present due to the FBI still conducting their own investigation into the case.
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