The owners of three purported Georgia-based trucking companies are facing wire fraud and theft of government property charges after federal prosecutors claim the couple set up shell companies to obtain $364,200 in funds through the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).
Curtis Porch, 48, and Dereen Porch, 43, of Columbus, Georgia, were arrested by federal agents June 14 after a federal grand jury returned a four-count indictment against the couple on June 9.
The Porches pleaded not guilty to the charges in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia on Wednesday.
The indictment states that Curtis Porch and Dereen Porch, aka Rena Fitzgerald or Dereen Fitzgerald, submitted three fraudulent PPP loan applications and forged documents to receive PPP funds for FNP Trucking, Porch to Porch Transportation LLC and Buckner Transportation in June and July 2020.
FNP Trucking, which lists Curtis Porch as the registered agent or organizer by the Georgia secretary of state’s office, was the only one of the three trucking companies that operated for over a year before the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration revoked its operating authority in January 2017.
All three LLCs were listed under different addresses. According to the indictment, LLCs are required to maintain a business address “that is the same as the address of the registered office” referred to in the certificate of organization filed with the secretary of state’s office.
Court filings state that Curtis Porch falsely stated on his PPP loan application that Buckner Transportation had gross revenues of $268,000 for the previous year, which wasn’t reported to the IRS.
Prosecutors allege Buckner Transportation, Porch to Porch Transportation and FNP Trucking “had no employees actively engaged in any actual trucking activities, no revenues and no apparent assets” at the time the couple submitted the applications.
If convicted, the pair face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for wire theft and a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for theft of government property, federal prosecutors said in a statement.
Forgivable loans through the PPP, administered by the Small Business Administration, started out with $350 billion in the CARES Act signed by former President Donald Trump in late March 2020 and were reupped in April 2020 with an additional $320 billion. The third round of funding, $284 billion in forgivable PPP loans through the SBA, opened up to lenders in January.
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